Control of judicial nominations is the Democrats' last means of making policy in this increasingly conservative country. They are unlikely to control the Congress for years to come. In the national vote for the presidency, they seem to come close to beating the Republicans, but consider the mediocre field of potential presidential candidates they have for 2008. With a field led by such a polarizing figure as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, they are unlikely to win the presidency. In the weeks ahead, the Democrats will fight to the end for the filibuster. It is all they have.
The Republicans have been preparing for the fight for weeks. They have gotten essential legislation out of the way. The Senate is about ready for the battle over the filibuster, and the Republicans will either fight it as vigorously as the Democrats defend it or they will let the Democrats dictate the shape of the federal judiciary. Frankly, I doubt that Lott can work out a compromise. The looming openings on the Supreme Court make Republican compromise impossible. At the end of the Supreme Court's session, probably in mid-June, the Chief Justice might well retire. By the end of the summer, there could be two vacancies. By the time Supreme Court vacancies open, the filibustering of judicial appointees must no longer be possible. Surely all Republicans know this.
Thus, my fellow political connoisseurs pull up a chair. Prepare for the fireworks. The 527 committees of both parties have already been preparing for the debate. If the liberal Democrats lose this one, their fate is sealed. If the Republicans lose, the judiciary remains in reactionary hands for a while longer. My guess is that the Republicans are going to win.