Skip to comments.The Answer is in the Works
Posted on 05/10/2005 7:34:34 AM PDT by watsonfellow
The Answer Is in the Works The real negotiations havent taken place yet.
Today begins the fifth year of waiting for confirmation for some of President Bush's nominees to the federal courts of appeals. With the Senate reconvening on Capitol Hill, and Majority Leader Bill Frist preparing to use the "nuclear option" or the "constitutional option" or "Byrd option," as it is also known to end the standoff over Democratic filibusters, the outlines of a possible compromise solution are beginning to take shape.
It's not the quick-and-dirty fix, recently floated in the press, in which both sides would exchange a few nominees and call it a day, with no real change in the way the Senate works. Republicans genuinely, and deeply, believe that Democrats have abused the system by their unprecedented filibusters of an entire slate of judicial nominees. To use the phrase heard most often in discussions with them, Republicans want to "fix the problem going forward," that is, to break through not only today's stalemate but prevent future ones.
What would a deal look like? There have already been two proposed "compromises" in the standoff, one from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the other from Frist. But neither was a final offer; it would be more accurate to see them as starting points, intended to feel out the opposition's readiness to deal. And each offers part of a possible solution.
For the GOP's part, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has proposed a solution that would end the practice of bottling up appellate-court nominees in committee (the key Democratic complaint against majority Republicans during the Clinton years), as well as guarantee 100 hours of debate on each nomination. Reid rejected that offer, calling it "a big wet kiss to the far right."
Reid had originally offered to pass three of four Bush nominees to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals who are not being filibustered but are nonetheless being blocked by Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. They are what is known as "noncontroversial" nominees, meaning Democrats have not raised any substantive objections to them but are blocking them en masse in large part because Levin remains angry that his cousin's wife, Helene White, who was nominated to the bench by Bill Clinton, was not confirmed by the Republican Senate. In addition, Reid offered to allow an up-or-down vote on one of President Bush's "controversial" nominees like Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown. Frist rejected that offer, saying that all nominees deserve an up-or-down vote.
Based on conversations with three well-connected Republicans call them Republicans A, B, and C it appears that the solution might lie in a combination of the two offers. Frist's 100-hour proposal is a substantial deal. While it would end filibusters, it would mean that Democrats could still effectively block some nominees. "Senate floor time is very precious," says Republican A. "If you have a lot of guaranteed debate time, then effectively leadership will not be able to bring forward every nominee if the minority insists on going through every procedure that is there. If [Democrats] said, 'We want 100 hours on all of them,'" then realistically all of them would not come up."
Privately, some Republicans indicate that they are willing to negotiate further on this point. For example, if Democrats wanted more time, say 120 hours, for each nomination, then "I'm sure we would have that conversation," says Republican A.
More importantly, some in the GOP appear willing to abandon the position that all Bush nominees must have an up-or-down vote if that would ensure that future nominees would not face filibusters. "If you had to sacrifice a couple of nominees," says Republican B, "so that you could save the courts and preserve the principle from now on, it's not like these are the only conservative nominees in the world."
"Who cares about these individual nominees?" adds Republican A. "You care about the process going forward. Frist isn't in this to protect Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen. He wants to fix this and have a system that works for both sides going forward."
It is important to remember that Democrats already have killed three nominations. Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl, and Charles Pickering, all filibustered, all chose not to be renominated for their positions. Estrada and Kuhl apparently had enough of the process. Pickering was given a brief recess appointment to the bench but chose to retire rather than face a new confirmation fight. Any count of Republican concessions to Democrats would begin with the number three.
Some Republicans believe there is the possibility of a deal by negotiating the time of debate and the fate of current nominees. Frist has to walk away with a deal in which no one would be allowed to filibuster judicial nominees. And Reid has to have a deal in which Democrats can walk away with some scalps and still retain the ability to block some nominees.
It is entirely possible that neither side will budge and Frist will end the filibusters with the nuclear/constitutional/Byrd option. But the process is not at that point yet. In fact, it is safe to say that, despite the enormous amount of attention paid to the subject recently, many Republican and Democratic senators have not yet thought hard about what they would actually do to end the stalemate. They know some sort of resolution is coming, but it's not quite here yet, and they haven't gotten to the point where they clear away all other concerns and concentrate on the filibusters.
But that time is coming soon. When it becomes clear that Frist is ready to act on the filibusters, then Republicans and Democrats will start thinking hard. Seventy-two hours before such a deadline and 48 hours before, and then 24 hours before lawmakers will begin the kind of intense thinking about the subject that many have not done up to now. "The prospect of a deadline will sharpen the mind," says Republican C. And even though Frist has no obligation to announce the day and hour he might take action, that will likely become clear enough. "The sound of the waterfall will be so great," says Republican B, "that everybody will know when we're approaching the edge."
Call Frist now and tell him "NO DEAL!"
National Review's Beltway Buzz is also reporting that contrary to his press statement yesterday, Lott is negotiating with Nelson. Lott is lying to us.
Just spoke with David DiMartino from Senator Ben Nelsons office. DiMartino tells me that despite the press release from Trent Lotts office claiming otherwise, Senators Lott and Nelson met as recently as yesterday to discuss a possible compromise on judicial filibusters. If you go back and read that statement, youll notice how very careful they were about wording it, DiMartino said.
DiMartino added that Lott and Nelson, along with a handful of other senators from both parties have been negotiating the details of a compromise for several months and have consulted with Harry Reid and Bill Frist on the matter.
Its our belief that we have the six votes needed on the Democrat side. We thought we had the six votes from the GOP or were at least very close. Senator Nelson is going to talk to other Republicans today.
DiMartino said that the compromise talks originated when Senator Nelson had planned to introduce legislation that would allow all judicial nominees to receive committee votes and floor votes without filibusters. Though Nelson is still considering introducing the legislation, the 67 votes required for a rule change makes its chances for success almost impossible.
Call Lott and tell him that his lies will not be stood for!
Southerners are horrible leaders, whether they are Dems or GOP.
And basketball sucks.
Are you just asking for trouble?
What do you know, fool? You can't even spell 'William' correctly.
If true, Frist can kiss any political future goodbye! Stand up to those bastards!
This is the bottom line, for me. If Frist does not achieve this, the Republican Party is useless, and they will no longer have my support. I will not support the Republican Party if all they can deliver is a series of squishy compromise nominees to the Federal Bench and the Supreme Court.
Frist, Lott, Clinton, Carter...
Newt was a better leader before he became Speaker...
Nothing against Southerners, I lived in the South for 15 years and I like Southerners.
They just don't make good leaders.
Sorry, I gotta do it!
You are an ignorant bigot.
I guess you are not a big fan of Bush. I'd have also include Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Boone, Crockett, Lee and if you ever get to meet him, I'll hope you can say that to Patton's face.
I don't consider Texas the South.
The South is: SC, North FL, GA, AL, MS, (maybe LA and AR), TN, NC and KY.
IE, states with SEC schools.
And, let me clarify...Southerners of the past couple of generations do not make good leaders.
Let me clarify for you... you don't consider.
I'm a damn yankee and I'd never make such a broad sweeping statement about my southern brethren.
Southerners don't make good leaders...
Why has this board become so PC?
you mention 67 votes for a rule change
is everyone in agreement that it takes 2/3s?
We, on this board, are politically active and aware. On the other hand, most people are not. Many people voted for Bush so he could nominate people to the SCOTUS. They don't care about any other court. The Supreme Court is the Holy Grail. So, Frist will not be in hot water with them if he makes a deal, in fact they will applaud it.
I'm sure you meant.." southern POLITICIANS are horrible leaders." And to that amended statement, I agree. There's no defending southern politicians. They pretend piety, they ooze corruption, and they sound like Dogpatch detainees.
Southern belle accents drawled out the pouty mouths of sweet young things is charmin, I've been told. But grown white men with thick southern accents, sound school girl silly, downright sickening, even to other southerners, of which I am one. Silly, sickening...except to southern gay guys who all sound like Scarlett O'Hara on speed!
I think southern men who wind up politicians just might be, (as we say down here), "queer as three dollar bills". (And I'm only half kidding about this. ) Even the married ones are questionable...think John Edwards!
So, let's separate southern politicians from normal southern men, who become the world's finest military and corporate leaders.
PC? not me!
but I did want to acknowledge there are precious few exceptions to any rule of thumb.