Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dobson's Choices

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family doesn't like the filibuster deal. He wanted the GOP Senate majority to end the Senate rule that allows members to filibuster presidential judicial nominees that they find to be extreme or unqualified. Dobson wanted to pack the federal Appeals courts with Christian Rightists -- and President Bush was all too happy to nominate them. That moderate Republicans were willing to buck Majority Leader, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) as well as the president on the so-called "nuclear option," (ending the filibuster rule) should send a clear signal that the Senate will not destroy all comity and deliberative sense, and use raw majoritarianism to impose its will.

At issue were seven nominees viewed too extreme by the Democrats (and probably some Republicans) who had been threatened with a filibuster. In the deal, the Democrats agreed not to filibuster five, and reserved the right to filibuster the other two, and any future nominees only under "extraordinary circumstances,'' the definition of which is left open to interpretation. (Blue Mass Group has the whole memo of understanding among the 14 Senators.)

"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats," Dobson said. "Only three of President Bush's nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals."

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness," Dobson continued. "That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

As usual, Dobson engages in demagogic and revisionist versions of history. In fact, Thomas, Scalia and Rehnquist were never threatened with filibusters, and any Senator could have filibustered their nominations if they had chosen to do so. (There are alot of people who wish some Democrats had had the courage to do so.) But Dobson not only lost some of his choices for the federal bench. He may have blown some political capital with his high handedeness. His lobbying campaigns, including ads targeting Senators in their home states, rankled not only liberals but conservatives.

USA Today reports: "James Dobson: Who does he think he is, questioning my conservative credentials?" Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in an interview. Dobson, head of the conservative group Focus on the Family, criticized Lott for his efforts to forge a compromise in the fight over the judges. Lott is still angry. "Some of his language and conduct is quite un-Christian, and I don't appreciate it," the senator said.

The Los Angeles Times, detailed the deal and its implications: "For their part, Republicans agreed not to lend their votes to the drive, led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to change the rules of the Senate to prevent future Democratic filibusters... During Bush's first term, Democrats filibustered 10 of the president's 52 appellate court nominees, complaining he had chosen conservative ideologues without consulting with the minority party. Bush resubmitted seven of the filibustered nominees, and Democrats said they again planned to block them... As part of the agreement, two of Bush's nominations - of William Myers to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and of Henry Saad to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Detroit -- would remain stalled. The other five filibustered nominees, including Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown -- would proceed to a floor vote. Owen's vote was expected Tuesday."

Of course five of the previously too egregious seven candidates will go forward for a vote by the full Senate, where there is a good chance that they will be confirmed. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is targeting Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor for defeat when they come up for a vote on the Senate floor.

[Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com]


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