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.