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Confirming judges - Phil's Rambling Rants
May 21st, 2005
01:41 am

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Confirming judges
I've been hearing quite a bit in the news lately about the upcoming showdown over the process of confirming judges.  I have strong feelings about both the fitness of the judges whose nominations are the excuse for this circus, and even stronger ones about the political motivation of the Senators involved, but I didn't actually come here to rant about that, and I don't want to discuss either the nominees or the politics right now.

There's actually a real policy question here, a question that should be decided not on the basis of political advantage for today, but on what makes sense in the long term for a system of government.  From one side of the debate, we keep hearing that, in the interest of fairness to the nominees and to the President, nominees should receive an actual "up or down" vote.  Even controversial nominations and nominees should be given enough respect that they're actually resoved, one way or the other, rather than hanging in limbo.  And I basically agree with this actual point, despite my disagreement with the people who are pushing it.  On the other side of the debate, we keep hearing that protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate is part of the vital system of checks and balances that makes America America, and I wholeheartedly agree with this -- the principle itself, not just the side that happens to be arguing it.

There is a solution that would satisfy both of these principles, a solution that seems so obvious that I wonder why I haven't heard anyone talk about it:  change the Senate rules -- legitimately, with bipartisan agreement and the proper two thirds majority -- so that confirmation votes for judges requires a three fifths supermajority.  There's no reason to filibuster a nominee your party doesn't like, because if you have the votes to sustain the filibuster, you have the votes to defeat the nominee in the official vote.  Nominees get the respect and closure of an actual vote, the rights of a substantial minority are respected, and best of all, nobody gets to squeak through into a lifetime appointment to a Fedaral court on a 50-50 vote with the Vice President breaking the tie.  Federal judgeships are too important to let marginal candidates into them; if a candidate isn't solid enough to convince a supermajority of the Senate that he can be trusted, he really *shouldn't* be given a lifetime appointment.

Is there anything I'm overlooking here that argues that this isn't a good solution in principle?

Is there anyone with enough public recognition and rhetorical ability out there who would be willing and able to make anyone in either party in the Senate who opposed this look like a complete twit?

If you're reading this and the basic idea makes sense, please talk it up on your own blog or whatever forum you work in.  Pass it along.  Say it better than I did.  It's probably too late to actually get anyone in the Senate to listen, but hey, let me have my fantasy that a sane idea could actually get some traction in this country.

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From:singlemaltsilk
Date:May 21st, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Have you sent letters to your senators?
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From:daev
Date:May 21st, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC)
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I think the reason the filibuster issue is coming up is because there's another traditional Congressional rule that was broken. Marginal candidates didn't use to make it to the floor for a vote, because the committees were bipartisan and encouraged consensus, or at least broad agreement between both sides. If the minority party were really really unhappy with someone, they didn't make it out of committee. The Republicans in Congress have removed Democrats from many of the committees, and enforced a strict closed-ranks discipline on the rest. So I think another solution would be to enforce real bipartisanship at the committee level -- though I don't know how you'd do that.
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From:poltr1
Date:May 21st, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC)
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Bring in Judge Greene and break up the committee just like he did with AT&T?
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From:daev
Date:May 21st, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC)
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From one side of the debate, we keep hearing that, in the interest of fairness to the nominees and to the President, nominees should receive an actual "up or down" vote. Even controversial nominations and nominees should be given enough respect that they're actually resoved, one way or the other, rather than hanging in limbo.

Well, yeah, but the usual resolution is that when a candidate is thoroughly filibustered, the President withdraws the guy's name from consideration. He's not "hanging in limbo."

Bush has been exceptional in the degree to which he is willing to push through every little thing he wants without the slightest concern for what the Democrats think.
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