Byron York

Of course, a few years ago, Coburn and other Republicans were decrying the Democrats' unprecedented use of the filibuster against judicial nominees. In the Bush years, minority Democrats stopped well-qualified nominees like Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen for purely political reasons -- to keep conservative judges off the courts and deny Bush possible future Supreme Court candidates. Democrats accused Estrada, Owen and others of being "divisive" and "controversial."

There was a revealing moment in 2005, as the filibuster fight was nearing its climax, when mild-mannered Republican Sen. Robert Bennett asked Sen. Harry Reid, who was then the minority leader, "if any number of hours of debate would be sufficient" to move the Owen nomination forward. Reid's answer was quick and sharp. "There is not a number in the universe that would be sufficient," he said.

The message was clear. Democrats would kill all the nominees they wanted. Period. Finally, Republicans threatened to use their majority to put an end to judicial filibusters altogether -- the so-call "nuclear option." A bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of 14, convened to seek a compromise.

In the agreement that followed, the "nuclear option" was shelved and Democrats caved on most -- but not all -- of the filibusters. In addition, senators pledged not to filibuster future judicial nominees unless there were "extraordinary circumstances." It was left up to each senator to define "extraordinary circumstances."

So now Republicans, who have allowed many liberal Obama nominees to proceed to Senate confirmation, say Liu is an "extraordinary circumstance." Democrats protested -- they appear to be suffering from total amnesia about what they did just a few years ago -- but in the end fell far short of the 60 votes needed to stop the GOP filibuster.

By the way, Obama has little standing to criticize the Liu filibuster, As a senator, Obama tried unsuccessfully to filibuster the Alito nomination.

So now Republicans have taken up the judicial filibuster, although they've done just one to the Democrats' 10. But there might be more in the future. When it comes to judicial confirmation fights, the rule in the Senate is always an eye for an eye.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner