Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 9, 2009

JUDICIAL FILIBUSTERS FOR ME, NOT FOR THEE.... David Hamilton of Indiana, President Obama's first appeals court nominee, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee 158 days ago. Care to guess how many George W. Bush nominees were held in limbo this long in the last Congress? Zero.

And yet, Hamilton's nomination hasn't been brought to the floor due to unprecedented Senate Republican obstructionism. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to force the issue, bring Hamilton to the floor, and seek a cloture vote.

Leading the charge against Hamilton will be Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama. Perhaps now would be a good time to point out what Jeff Sessions had to say about blocking judicial nominees as recently as four years ago:

"I have stated over and over again on this floor that I would refuse to put an anonymous hold on a judge; that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported; that I felt the Senate should do its duty. If we don't like somebody the President nominates, vote him or her up or down. But don't hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo...."*

"Unconscionable."

At the time, Sessions added that denying a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote was inconsistent with a process that has been in place "since the founding of the republic."

I guess he's changed his mind. How convenient.

It's worth emphasizing that when the president nominated Judge Hamilton for the7th Circuit seven months ago, Obama did so specifically because Hamilton has a record of moderation. The nomination was intended to send a signal that the process of filling judicial vacancies need not be contentious. "We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us," one White House aide said back in March.

Obama can't win for trying. No matter how moderate his nominees, no matter how qualified they are, no matter how much support they may garner, Senate Republicans are going to do what no Senate minority has ever done -- try to block them all, just a few years after arguing that any attempts to filibuster a judicial nominee tears at the very fabric of our republic.

With a 60-member caucus, Reid can hopefully make some quick progress on this. And if there are any Republicans left who are willing to concede that these tactics are ridiculous, now would be the ideal time for him or her to step up.

* Update: I've been informed that, while Sessions made these remarks on the Senate floor, he was quoting Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) at the time. While Sessions has gone from a fierce opponent of judicial filibusters (of a Republican president's nominees) to someone who actually leads the way on judicial filibusters (of a Democratic president's nominees), the quote attributed to him did not accurately reflect his own remarks.

Steve Benen 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Comments

The bottom line of the Republican war is 'containment' - The more they can delay any political decision is more hope that in 2010 and 2012 - their party will resurface from the bog and be able to make those assignments.

This kind of political war is bleeding America and is not Democracy in action, it is Fascism.

Posted by: Dean on November 9, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Senator. Lieberman will throw a kink into this...

Posted by: sduffys on November 9, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

And Hamilton's sister-in-law is Dawn Johnsen. I wonder if this is a record, two members of the same family getting shafted by Senate rules at the same time.

Posted by: howie on November 9, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans? step up??

surely you jest.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 9, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I see the face and voice of Fascism as Fox News and Tea Baggers, call me crazy...

Posted by: Dean on November 9, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Reid should establish henceforth that Refucklicans will have to actually physically fillibuster every single appointee or piece of legislation. No bitch rules about tele-fillibustering. You must get off your ass and come down to the floor and put in the work in full view of CSPAN's cameras.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on November 9, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why do we even have a senate?

Posted by: Christopher on November 9, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

It shows why you shouldn't negotiate with terrorists.

Posted by: Jamie on November 9, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

If judicial filibusters were such a big deal, why didn't the dems object to it months ago?

Posted by: Al on November 9, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It should be mentioned that Sessions (nor anyone else) has actually voted against cloture to this point. I don't understand what Reid is waiting for--make them vote for a filibuster. If they can maintain it, then it will mean Lieberman, Snowe and the others to filibuster many judicial appointments--there will be a big political price to pay for these votes and I doubt any of the so-called moderates would have the stomach to do it.

Posted by: asdf on November 9, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to take this opportunity to, once again, apologize for the people of Alabama and for the idiotic bastards they put in office.

Posted by: martin on November 9, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think the prhase is "can't win for losing..." We see what putting forward a "moderate" did. If Reid isn't willing to crush the opposition then it hardly matters whether Obama puts forward a moderate or a flaming radical. Can we at least go down trying to seriously change the makeup of the courts instead of trying to appease the unappeaseable right wing?

aimai

Posted by: aimai on November 9, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans will always be hypocritical, lying assholes - that's not news. My question is, why hasn't Reid made "quick work" of this before 158 days passed? If Dems continue to knuckle under and appease, I'm sure the Republicans will oblige by continuing their scorched earth politics.

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on November 9, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

It is at moments like these we can count on the likes of Jeff Sessions to show us politics is equivalent to the oldest profession on earth!

My apologies to any practitioners of this profession for lumping someone like Jeff Sessions among your ranks! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 9, 2009 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

"This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to force the issue, bring Hamilton to the floor, and seek a cloture vote."

Oh wow, that Harry Reid, he's such a brave man. It's too bold. I don't think I can take the suspense of ACTUALLY FORCING THE GOP TO FILIBUSTER.

This should have been done months ago on a wide variety of issues. Give me a fucking break.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 9, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I heard that another nominee had actually been confirmed by the full Senate recently--anyone know how many have been so far since Obama took office? I'm guessing not more than a handful.
Repubs are usually hypocrites, but in this case the hypocrisy is particularly rank. When Bush was president, we never heard the end of the crisis we had in the judiciary due to a shortage of judges who had been confirmed.
They need to get as many seated as possible between now and 2010, because I'm guessing this won't get any easier. I'm surprised we haven't heard more from Leahy on this, he's not usually a pushover.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 9, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

This status quo can't last forever. There will be a tipping point at which moderate Republicans (the non-teabagging voters) start to question why so many vacancies are unfilled. When they start to question why, the GOP leadership will call off the dogs. Expect to see a lot of these appointees that have been held up for months to get 98-0 approval votes. The bastards don't have the guts to obstruct in the sunlight; they prefer to operate in the shadows. Reid is doing a good thing by forcing the issue.

Posted by: danimal on November 9, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Which is why Obama should throw 500 nominations right at the Senate all at once - and every single one of them a genuine bomb-throwing, fire-starting, screaming, Marxist, gay, black Muslim.

Start with Bill Ayers, and go far left from there.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on November 9, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but in the "being hypocritical on this issue" front both parties are abject failures...

Posted by: Tosk59 on November 9, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

"And if there are any Republicans left who are willing to concede that these tactics are ridiculous, now would be the ideal time for him or her to step up."

That's rich. Keep 'em coming...

Posted by: Ranger Jay on November 9, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK
Sorry, but in the "being hypocritical on this issue" front both parties are abject failures...

Posted by: Tosk59 on November 9, 2009 at 2:58 PM

In what way? The Democrats tried to fillibuster a total of six Bush appointees to the federal courts. Four of them were truly radical idealogues and the other two were solidly conservative and had been appointed to positions that were only open because Republican obstructionism had blocked action on Clinton appointees to those seats for nearly two years.

In response, Republicans loudly proclaimed that anything less than an up and down vote for EVERY nominee was unconstitional and were prepared to engage in parliamentary procedures that would have set a precedent for the majority party to change any Senate rules they wanted any time they wanted on a simple majoriy vote. Many of those same Republicans who were most outspoken then are now blocking action on virtually all of Obama's nominees.

Somehow, I don't see any Democratic hypocrisy in all this, certainly nothing that worth speaking of in comparison to the Republicans.

Posted by: tanstaafl on November 9, 2009 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand we have Obama negotiating with himself in an attempt to nominate reasonable people whom the Republicans really should have no objection to. On the other hand we had Bush who would nominate some total idiot and then when that was shot down, nominate someone who is just as bad but didn't have the same flamboyance. Look at which technique was more successful.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on November 9, 2009 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

And what is wrong with recess appointments?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on November 10, 2009 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Would it be possible for the Dems to change the rules to end the filibuster and then right before the next election cycle reinstate it just to cheese off the repugs?

Posted by: wbn on November 10, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans will, I hope, one day cower with embarrasment over what their Senators have done & how venal they have become.

I'm not holding my breath...

Posted by: Paul in KY on November 10, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK
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