The GOP's Effort to Get Judges Confirmed

Democrat Senate leadership, during the first two years of the Bush Administration, treated the President’s judicial nominations with contempt and loathing, blocking the nominations from consideration and dragging good reputations through the mud.

Now that they are in the minority, Democrats have employed the unprecedented practice of filibustering the President’s judicial nominees on the Senate floor, namely those of Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada.

The judicial nomination process was one of my pet issues when I worked in the Senate, so imagine my delight when I saw that the Senate Rules Committee passed a resolution (S. Res. 138) that would change Senate Rule XXII – the rule providing for filibusters – to exempt nominations requiring the advice and consent of the Senate. The resolution was approved by the committee 10-0: Democrats, in protest, did not show up for the committee vote. In other words, they decided to throw a tantrum, take their toys, and go home.

Of course Democrats cry that the proposed change would be unfair and would undermine Senate procedure and tradition of debate. Because of their current strong opposition, the rule change, which requires 67 votes, looks to have about as much chance of passing as Carol Moseley-Braun has of winning the White House.

But liberals’ real opposition has nothing to do with the preservation of Senate tradition – they’ve already tossed that out the window by first defeating Owen in the judiciary committee in the 107th Congress and then filibustering her nomination this year – but with their opposition to “conservative-activist” (read “pro-life”) judges being confirmed to lifetime appointments. Democrats know that Owen and Estrada both have enough votes in the Senate to put them on the court of appeals, and without the Dems’ filibusters they would be there.

Consider what Sen. Leahy (D.-Vt.) said on the floor in May: “I would observe that voting on judicial nominations is unlike Senate consideration of legislation in the way that imposing capital punishment is unlike any other criminal sentence. It is final and irrevocable. A bad statute once enacted can be amended or repealed. A bad judge is on the bench for life and will continue to affect Americans’ rights, our freedoms and our environment in case after case for decades to come, long after the President who appointed that judge is gone.”

Sen. Leahy has apparently forgotten about the impeachment option.

More importantly, Sen. Leahy has forgotten that Republicans don’t treat people the same way Democrats do. Senate Republicans have more respect for the constitutional role of the Senate in the nomination process.

The filibuster is an option Democrats fear losing, not Republicans, because that’s not how Republicans act.

(Keep checking First Look for more information on judicial nominations and other important issues of the day.)



  • Senate Committee – Without Democrats – Votes to Limit Filibusters
  • For Senators, Soul-Searching About the Rules
  • Sen. Leahy on Proposed Senate Rules Change (Congressional Record)
  • Majority Leader Frist on Filibuster Reform (Congressional Record)
  • Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch on S. Res. 138 (Congressional Record)
  • Text of S. Res. 138
  • Hatch Presses for Action on Judicial Nominees
  • Hatch Group May Go ‘Nuclear’ on Judges
  • GOP Splits over Tough Tactics on Bush Judges
  • Lott’s New Goal: Changing Some Senate Rules
  • ‘Nuclear’ Option Retained to Break Filibuster
  • Will GOP ‘Go Nuclear’ on Judges?
  • Capital Briefs – Week of May 12: GO NUCLEAR
  • Capital Briefs – Week of June 30: GOING NOWHERE