Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No Nukes
At about the same time the rogue nuclear missile on last night's season finale of 24 was being zapped at the last second, the Republican Party's nuclear assault on Senate rules was being zapped, too. That's one way to spin the deal that has been reached to avert this morning's scheduled nuclear-option vote in the Senate.

It seems that people on both sides are upset, from James Dobson on the right to Russ Feingold on the left. The deal apparently calls for an up-or-down vote on Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and Bill Pryor--the three worst nominees, as it turns out. It seems likely that at least one of them will probably be defeated on that up-or-down vote, if the comments of South Carolina's Lindsey Graham are correct. (I'd have to guess that will be Pryor.) The deal preserves the right to filibuster, but only under "extraordinary circumstances." And that language concerns me a great deal--because if Janice Rogers Brown isn't "extraordinary," nobody is. As a commenter at Political Animal put it, the only judge in America who's to the right of Brown is Alabama's Roy Moore, protector of the Ten Commandments. And what if Bush tries to put Owen or Brown up for a Supreme Court vacancy in a year or so? How can Democrats filibuster the nomination then if they don't filibuster it now? I'm wary of any deal in which the Democratic dealers include Joe Lieberman--because Lieberman is the Democrat most likely to give the Republicans cover when it looks like "extraordinary circumstances" have arrived with some future nomination.

The broader implications of this will take time to play out. Does the revolt of the moderate Repugs mean a real split on other issues, too, or is this a one-time thing? Is there anything in the agreement that might curb Bush's taste for the most extreme nominees? Will you be able to get truckloads of "Frist for President" gear at a discount very soon?

I suspect we have only postponed the nuclear option, not defused it. That, combined with the apparent seating of Owen and Brown, makes this deal a failure by the standard I wrote about last week. Yet as Mark Schmitt wrote at the Decembrist last night, the nature of compromise is that everybody's a little disappointed. If this compromise means Frist and the christo-fascists have lost their whip hand over the Senate--then hurrah for this compromise.

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