Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Democrats demonstrate shameless hypocrisy in invoking ‘nuclear option’

A decade ago, President Bush nominated super-lawyer Miguel Estrada to sit on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Honduran-born Estrada had argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court and had served two presidents, both Republican and Democrat, at the Department of Justice.

But Democrats—worried about the political optics of having a highly qualified Hispanic conservative superstar so close to the Supreme Court—determined to stop his nomination at all costs. Mr. Estrada became the first ever judicial nominee successfully filibustered in the Senate. But he wouldn’t be the last. In total, Democrats would filibuster 10 of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees for the federal bench; five would eventually be confirmed, mostly resulting from the 2005 “Gang of Fourteen” deal.

Now angst-laden Democrats, worried about losing control of the Senate next year, have shattered a decade of uneasy judicial-nominating peace—whereby the Senate confirmed most judicial choices and used the filibuster sparingly.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) evoked the “nuclear option” last week, effectively ending the filibuster and turning the Senate into a mirror image of the majority-rule House for judicial nominations, excepting, supposedly, Supreme Court nominees.

Democrats claim this move will “restore the functionality” of the Senate and cite statistics purporting to show Republican abuse of the procedural tactic. A closer examination, however, shows these assertions to be hypocritical and disingenuous.

First, the Senate was functioning exactly as it should have been. The filibuster has existed in some form or another as a minority protection since the Constitution’s earliest days. Its existence forces compromises and consensus building.

Further, a total of only five of President Obama’s judicial nominees had been filibustered, the exact number as President Bush. And as law professor Jonathan Adler points out, all of these nominations were to the influential DC Circuit and none were considered a judicial emergency. In fact, of the nine such emergencies, only four nominees are currently pending.

And so now Democrats have shamelessly blown up over 200 years of tradition in order to pack the most important circuit court with liberals before they potentially lose the Senate next year. In doing so, they set the stage for a further deterioration and poisoning of the political climate in Washington and have set a precedent they may very well regret four years from now. 

This post was authored by Paul Jossey.   

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