April 28, 2005

Frist Proposes a Senate Compromise on Judges

Marc Comtois

(via NRO's Corner) Senator Bill Frist has made a proposal to the Democrats in hopes of ending the "filibuster" battle. While the rhetoric he used to frame his case is good, I'll refrain from posting it and just go right to the 4 points of his offer:

First, never in the history of the Senate had a judicial nominee with majority support been denied an up-or-down vote until two years ago. However, it was not unprecedented either for Republicans or Democrats to block judicial nominees in committee.

Whether on the floor or in committee, judicial obstruction is judicial obstruction. Its time for judicial obstruction to end no matter which party controls the White House or the Senate.

The judiciary committee will continue to play its essential oversight and investigative roles in the confirmation process. But the committee -- whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats -- will no longer be used to obstruct judicial nominees.

Second, fair and open debate is a hallmark of the Senate. Democrats have expressed their desire for more time to debate judicial nominees. I respect that request and honor it.

When a judicial nominee comes to the floor, we will set aside up to 100 hours to debate that nomination. Then the Senate as a whole will speak with an up-or-down vote.

The Senate operated this way before we began to broadcast debates on television in 1986. This would provide more than enough time for every Senator to speak on a nominee while guaranteeing that nominee the courtesy of a vote.

Third, these proposals will apply only to appeals court and Supreme Court nominees. Judges who serve on these courts have the awesome responsibility of interpreting the Constitution.

So far, only up-or-down votes on appeals court nominees have been denied. I sincerely hope the Senate minority does not intend to escalate its judicial obstruction to potential Supreme Court nominees.

That would be a terrible blow to constitutional principles and to political civility in America. I hope my offer will make it unnecessary for the minority to further escalate its judicial obstruction.

Fourth, the minority of senators who have denied votes on judicial nominees are concerned that their ability to block bills will be curbed. As Majority Leader, I guarantee that power will be protected.

The filibuster -- as it existed before its unprecedented use on judicial nominees in the last Congress -- will remain unchanged.

He correctly admits that both sides have been engaged in overstepping the bounds of the traditional definition of the "advise and consent" role of the senate. I wonder if it'll work.