Jewish World Review May 25, 2005 /16 Iyar,
A compromised party
The Senate Democrats hung tough and the Republicans wimped out.
The Republicans had the votes but they didn't have the guts.
That is the bottom line on the compromise agreement that will
allow votes to proceed on judicial nominees without a filibuster, except in
"extraordinary" cases. In other words, the Democrats will filibuster only
when they feel like filibustering, since they will define what
"extraordinary" means to them.
Although the Republicans have more votes in the Senate, and also
have Vice-President Cheney to cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, the
Democrats stuck together. None of them went around wringing their hands in
the media about how hard it would be for them to support their party if it
came to a vote.
Unity often beats disunity, even when the side that is unified
This is not a unique situation. Democrats have long understood
that they are in Washington to represent the people who voted for them. Too
many Republicans seem to think that they are in Washington to make deals
with the Democrats.
Some people welcome all compromises, domestic or international,
on grounds that these compromises "ease tensions" and "avoid
You can always ease tensions and avoid confrontations by
surrendering. You can always postpone a showdown, even when that simply lets
the problem fester and grow worse.
Some Republicans may take comfort from the fact that they still
have the option of changing the Senate rules in the future if the Democrats
violate the spirit of their deal. But, once you have had the votes to win
and wimped out instead, there is little reason to think that the weak
sisters and opportunists on your side will be with you the next time high
noon rolls around.
While members of both parties are trying to put a good face on
this political deal and the media have gushed about this "bipartisan"
agreement, Republican Senator Charles Grassley was one of the few who called
a spade a spade, when he characterized what happened as "unilateral
disarmament" by the Republicans.
If it was just the Republican Party that lost in this
confrontation, that would be a minor partisan matter. What is of major
importance is that the American people lost a golden opportunity that may
not come again in this generation.
That opportunity is or was to set in concrete both the
Senate's right to vote on judicial nominees and the American people's right
to govern themselves, instead of being ruled by judges who increasingly take
decisions out of the hands of elected officials and impose their own
personal policy preferences.
It is not just a question of the merits or demerits of
particular issues and decisions by the courts. The most fundamental decision
is: Who is to decide? Democratic self-rule is what Americans have fought and
died for, for more than 200 years.
People who say that the Senate compromise will now enable
Congress to get back to the "real" issues seem to think that whether the
voters' votes become ever more futile in a judge-ruled world is less
important than deciding what kind of goodies the federal government hands
Fine. But a lot more such judges need to be put on the federal
courts, including the Supreme Court, to change the current pervasive
judicial activism. Is that likely now?
The net effect of the Senate compromise is that this President
and future Presidents will be under pressure to choose nominees who can get
through the confirmation process without rocking the boat.
That is how conservative Republican Presidents in the past
loaded the Supreme Court with liberal judicial activists from William J.
Brennan to David Souter and wobbly Justices like Sandra Day O'Connor and
Somebody has to stand up for an end to this trend. As Ronald
Reagan used to say, "If not us, who? And if not now, when?"
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