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RonK, Seattle

Agreed, Mark, the precedent of a Brown confirmation would set a threshold too low for anyone to stumble over.

I have a problem with the "extraordinary circumstances" condition. It seems extraordinarily vulnerable to divergent interpretation. In difficult caes, who could we find to serve as a mutually agreeable arbiter of disagreements as to whether the bargain had been kept?

It would take someone of lofty standing, unusually dispassionate temperament, and surpassing wisdom. Why, it would take someone with ... with ... the wisdom of a judge!!!


please help me here

isn't the battle over whether the threat that republicans will challenge the method by which the senate changes rules - two thirds required to change the rules vs a majority required to change the rules

all the talk about specific judge nominations and potential compromises focuses attention from what i think is the real issue


We're like Herman Kahn? Since he was a partial inspiration for Kubrick's Dr. Stangelove, I'll take the comparison as mostly a compliment. ;-)


"isn't the battle over whether the threat that republicans will challenge the method by which the senate changes rules - two thirds required to change the rules vs a majority required to change the rules"

In effect, yes. But the issue at hand is actually a bit more subtle.

The key thing to keep in mind is that changing the rules to require a majority to change the rules requires a two thirds vote. That is not what the nuclear option would do. Instead, it would set a (perfectly valid, IMHO) precedent that all existing and future rules can be abolished by the majority. If a post-nuclear option Senate were to unanimously pass a rule saying it took 55 votes to change the rules, that rule itself could be abolished by a majority vote.

RonK, Seattle

If a voting body can chagne its rules at any time, by will of a majority, effectively has no rules ... and it stands in perpetual jeopardy of falling into chaos.

In a voting body of more than two members, there is no such thing as THE majority.

Order of magnitude, there are as many distinct 51-member majorities in the 100-member Senate as there are oxygen molecules in the Capitol Rotunda.



How do you think the House is organized?


While there are no potential Supreme Court nominees that are more extreme philosophically than Brown, there are others that are worse, and I expect Bush will go with one of them. After all, his main goal is to ensure the Court legislates the Republican platform, so why not pick a career politician instead of a judge? The spin machine would point out that Earl Warren was an elected official without judicial background.

RonK, Seattle

Petey -- The House does adopt its rules by majority vote, but it does not adopt its general rules at will, at any time. Each time it does adopt them (at the start fo a session), it adopts rules and structures and assignments calculated to keep democracy from breaking out.

From time to time, at will, it adopts rules to govern the action of the general body on each particular bill. These likewise are preformulated to make sure democracy doesn't break out on the floor.

In the smaller Senate, with margins narrower in absolute numbers, with actors less aligned and less beholden to party leadership, results are less predictable.

It seems likely the effect of a brush with chaos would be the adoption of governing structures even more restrictive than House Rules, creating a politically vestigial upper body ... but the outcome is not a priori determinable.


More and more I think that the real purpose is simply to break the fillibuster. Bush has gotten all but 10 of over 200 nominees confirmed, and the limit of who's confirmable is extremist whackjob hardcore nutcase. Those who fit only three of those four terms slide through without trouble.

Altering the Supreme Court requires only 2-3 hardcore right-wing justices - one to replace Rhenquist, one to replace O'Connor. There is a possiblity of turning a serious whackjob down (e.g., Bork), but we wouldn't block more than one or two. The GOP has *got* to have a nice list of a dozen rightwingers with clean records (or records which have some dirt, but not the sort of dirt which would make for nice soundbites). And knocking out one doesn't stop the second, or the third...

So it just can't be for the Supreme Court, and only for the current nominations in the sense that the GOP feels that getting 99% of what they wanted is an injustice. If that's the case, then *not* completing the destruction of the fillibuster would be an aberration.

RonK, Seattle

Bush is in commanding position re SCOTUS. In my view, the "real target" is the DC Circuit.


Yes. DC Circuit is the key. It's where many of the high-stakes petitions for review of federal agency action wind up.

Ruth Fleischer

I agree that Frist would have to go if he fails since he has put too many of his Republican colleagues on the spot and for reasons linked mainly to his own Presidential ambitions. If it's true that almost half his caucus does not want this vote and he resisted compromise, a loss by Frist would be devastating. He can't afford that many angry Republican senators on a vote that can be used in campaigns, featured in editorials etc. Not only are many Republican members afraid of the religious right (and potential primary opposition) but in many cases they are also afraid to appear too conservative as well. Thus Frist violates the first rule of leadership -- don't put the members needlessly on the spot.

The Heretik

Republicans just won the compromise.


"So I would be happy to see a deal bring this confrontation to a close, but it cannot be a deal that gives Bush a free pass to name anyone he wants to the Court."

You should not be happy.


Owens, Brown -and- Pryor.

But hey, we've "preserved" the filibuster.

A pyrrhic victory indeed.

Michael Stickings

Here's what happened:

Instead of moderate Republicans siding with unified Democrats to protect the filibuster (and hence indirectly to vote down Bush's extremist nominees), moderate Democrats have sided with unified Republicans to guarantee confirmation for three of Bush's extremist nominees without effectively closing debate on the nuclear option.

So what have the Democrats won? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

You are right, Mark, to have said that a compromise would have been "disastrous" for Frist. Which is precisely why this isn't anything like a compromise.

This is a huge moral victory for the Republicans, just a time when the Democrats had assumed moral leadership on the issues (Bolton, social security, etc.).

Now we have Owen and Brown. What's next? Surely the Republicans must feel that they can get their way now that the Democrats, disunited as ever, have caved.

My take:


Way to go, Sen. Reid.

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