With the Republican Senate 24 hours away from liberating all seven judicial hostages of Minority Leader Harry Reid and his Democrats, Sen. John McCain stepped in to snatch compromise from the jaws of victory.
We will, said McCain, settle for only three. McCain’s Gang of Seven had just engineered a Republican Munich.
As of Monday, Majority Leader Bill Frist had the 51 votes needed to free all seven. Had a cloture vote been taken, all seven Bush appellate court appointees would soon be on their way to the federal bench. Reid’s Democratic minority would have been stripped permanently of its power to abuse, delay and kill Bush judges and Supreme Court justices.
After months of painstaking work and press abuse, Republicans were on the precipice of a triumph. The McCain Seven stepped in — to trade the horse for a rabbit.
Now, instead of Republicans winning all seven and disarming Reid, Ted Kennedy and Co. of their lethal weapon, Democrats agreed to release three hostages, but hold the other four — and were given a GOP blessing to use their filibuster-veto in "extraordinary circumstances," i.e., should Bush name to the Supreme Court a jurist like William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas.
McCain is doing victory laps on the morning talk shows and assuring us, "The country won." But Dick Durbin and Reid are talking like men who just rubbed Republican noses in the dirt. "The nuclear option is off the table," said Sen. Durbin. Reid was especially gracious: "Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over."
As of now, the winners are McCain — who has burnished his credentials with liberals — Democrats and the mainstream media, who will lacquer up any Republican who sells out the right. The losers are Bill Frist, the Republican majority, the four abandoned nominees — now back in limbo — and George Bush.
In a shot at the president, South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, who appears to look to McCain as his future leader rather than Bush as his present leader, said: "We’re going to start talking about who would be a good judge and who wouldn’t. And the White House is going to get more involved and going to listen more."
Not only did Graham dump his party to go with the Gang of Seven and collude with Democrats, he gave credence to the liberal charge that some Bush nominees are indeed beyond the pale.
Graham should state exactly which conservative jurist Bush named who would not be a "good judge." If he believes Bush has failed to consult, or appointed unqualified men or women, why not vote them down, rather than let liberal obstructionists keep their lethal weapon to kill Republican Supreme Court nominees?
What McCain has done is to cobble together a small but controlling block of dissident Republicans to deny the GOP majority its right to rule and run the Senate, except on McCain’s terms.
This is a direct challenge to Bill Frist. If he and the GOP majority accept the McCain Compromise, they will invite the contempt of the people who sent them here with a conservative mandate. At that top of that agenda is to remake the federal courts and to terminate the Supreme Court’s 50-year tenure as judicial dictator and supreme agent of social, cultural and moral revolution in America.
What ought Frist to do?
Hold a press conference and declare to the party and country that, while the McCain Compromise may bind the seven, it does not bind the Senate, and, as majority leader, he intends to give every nominee to come out of the Judiciary Committee a floor vote. Should any nominee be filibustered, he will move to invoke cloture and shut off debate.
If McCain’s Gang of Seven wishes to vote with 45 Democrats to let judicial nominees be filibuster-vetoed, that is their right. But they will have to vote with Reid, Barbara Boxer and Kennedy, and against their fellow Republicans and President Bush.
McCain has thrown down a challenge to Bush, as well. Before Monday, the Democratic minority was dictating which judges would be held hostage and which ones would be released. Now, it is the Democratic minority, plus the McCain Seven, that is doing the dictating.
What Bush should reply is: There is not an extremist among them. All are men and women of integrity, intelligence and judicial demeanor. I want them all voted up or voted down. To deny them a vote is to do them and the nation an injustice.
If the president and Frist move toughly, and together, they can scatter the McCain gang, get every judge voted on and disarm the Democrats of their lethal weapon. They have the votes. The question is: Do they have the nerve?
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