Judicial filibusters

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

One of the most important decisions that President George W. Bush and the new Congress face is who and how to put judges on the federal bench, including the U.S. Supreme Court. ...

For the past four years, Democrats have used the filibuster, the nuclear weapon of Senate opposition, to block some of Mr. Bush's extreme judicial nominees.

Now Republicans are talking about their own "nuclear" response: a vote to bar the use of the filibuster in judicial nominations.

Both sides should step back from the brink. The Democrats have overused the filibuster, but Republicans invite gridlock if they eliminate this powerful procedural tool. ...

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., ... stresses that the Democrats have held up only 10 appeals court judges while confirming 203 of Mr. Bush's nominees. But even those 10 filibusters are too many, blocking some well-qualified nominees.

Mr. Bush evaded one filibuster by naming one of his most extreme candidates, former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor Jr., to an appeals court seat as a recess appointee. Mr. Pryor recently cast the deciding vote against reviewing a court decision that denied gay parents the right to adopt children.

That demonstrates the real-life consequences of these appointments. Abortion rights also are at stake.

... If everyone were true to their word, we might avoid debilitating filibusters. If Mr. Bush appoints highly competent judges who won't read their personal views into the Constitution, and if the Senate avoids litmus tests, we might yet avoid mutually assured destruction.

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