Edging back from the precipice
A couple weeks back, David Wissing asked readers to send in guesses on when the nuclear/Constitutional option vote would be taken and what the outcome would be. He refused to take a guess of “never” so I didn’t enter the contest. But I still doubt there will be a rules change for two reasons:
1. Bill Frist will not call the vote unless he’s absolutely certain he has 50 votes, and there’s no indication he does. Three Republicans have already stated that they’ll vote against the rules change, so Frist can only lose two more defectors. Does he want to gamble and risk a humiliating defeat in the Senate? Nope. I’d like to believe Mitch McConnell that “Frist has the votes” but I’m not convinced.
2. Harry Reid can’t take the chance that the GOP does have the votes. The rules change would emasculate the Democrats’ ability to stop nominees to the appeals courts and, more importantly, to the Supreme Court. The Democrats will do everything in their power to prevent a rules change vote; get ready for a flurry of compromises if a vote is scheduled. The problem with all the “deals” thus far is that they seek to codify that judicial filibusters are acceptable, which is something that the Republicans won’t agree to.
IMO, the Democrats have more to lose here. If the rules change is defeated, the GOP can at least claim they stood on the principle that judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote as the Constitution decrees. Meanwhile, the Democrats will enjoy the pyrrhic “victory” of their obstructionism in keeping highly qualified candidates (according to the ABA) off the federal bench. If the rule change passes, however, the only thing the Democrats will have is a political issue for 2006. I seriously doubt that the issue of Senatorial rules will resonate with many Americans beyond the MoveOn wackos. Furthermore, I think Americans incensed by the end of judicial filibusters will be more than counterbalanced by voters heartened to see nominees receive a fair vote. Do the Democrats really want to head into yet another election with the strategy of ginning up anger in their base? Aren’t the rank-and-file Democrats utterly fatigued by the whole “stolen” 2000 election narrative by now?
Therefore, the Democrats simply cannot roll the dice by allowing the rule change to come to a vote. My guess is (as Mickey Kaus outlined ) that some Democrats will break away from the filibuster and vote for cloture, thereby sidestepping a rule change showdown. We’ll see.
Extra: The two-year journey to the nuclear/Constitutional/Byrd option. Also, the Poliblogger takes a critical look at Harry Reid’s half-truths and outright lies.