Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Judicial Filibusters: a Brief History

(Picture credit US Senate Committee on the Judiciary)
Excel-web sharing of spreadsheetsI'd heard rumblings from the MSM/DNC that the idea of the judicial filibuster wasn't truly a Democratic party invention. That the GOP had effectively stonewalled some of President Clinton's nominees using procedural nastiness, albeit not filibusters themselves. I'd wondered about this issue. Was it correct? Was the GOP just as guilty as the Democrats in refusing to let Clinton's nominees come to a vote?

I hadn't seen a detailed explanation of these "procedural" methods until I came across this explanation on El Rushbo's site.

...Hagel said, "What we did with Clinton's nominees about 62 of them, we just didn't give them votes in committee or we didn't bring them up." In the first place, Bill Clinton had a large percentage (71%) of his nominees confirmed. George W. Bush has the lowest percentage (50%) of his nominees confirmed of any recent president, going back to Truman (over 90%).

Now, in this case the filibuster was not used. There was no violation of Senate rules in what the Republicans did. They didn't pass some of these nominees out of committee. Some of Bush's nominees haven't come out of committee. But none of the senators that came out of the judiciary committee when Clinton was president and the Republicans are running the committee, none of them were filibustered. Those that got out of committee got votes on the floor. That is not what's happening now.

The Democrats are the ones trying to change the age-old traditions of the Senate...

In other words, the majority used the Judiciary committee for its intended purpose: to determine the fitness of the nominee, stamping approval on those nominees deemed acceptable and forestalling others. This has occurred for many decades and is considered standard practice.

What has not been standard practice, at least for the last 215 years, is the judicial filibuster. Over that period, there has not been a single sustained filibuster of any judicial nominee.

Hugh Hewitt distills its history and ramifications a bit further:

The fact is that Senate Democrats want to enshrine a new rule -- a 60 vote rule -- for judicial confirmations.

If they want that rule, they should win some elections on the issue, rather than lose them.

It is clear that there will be no "compromise" worth having, just a vote on whether the Senate will abide by the design of the Framers and its practices of 215 years, or the desires of Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy, and Harry Reid to ignore that design and throw out those practices.

Piling on, Patterico reveals a beautifully laid out expose (shades of windiff for journalists) of the LA Dog-Trainer Times. Their apparent selective editing of Professor Greenberg's article on the history of the judicial filibuster compares with the best efforts of Pravda circa 1960 - and is just as relevant to today's news consumers.

If the MSM really stoops to these lows -- slashing op-ed pieces in chainsaw-massacre fashion to reach the conclusions they desire -- it simply indicates their rising panic. Heaven forbid they actually staunch subscription bleedout with op-ed balance or a sense of fair play. It's crystal clear from these tactics just how wrong they are... and how out of touch with their readers they remain. From all appearances, they can't trust their readers to read Greenberg's real op-ed piece... so they've created their own version, hoping to swing some opinions with adulterated bile.

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