It?s More than Judges

Larry Kudlow
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Posted: Apr 28, 2005 12:00 AM
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid doesn?t seem to get the fact that George W. Bush won the presidential election last November. He also doesn?t get that the Republicans picked up five seats in the Upper Chamber. That?s called a mandate. Despite this, Reid believes he can negotiate, or even dictate, which judicial appointments can be voted on in the Senate.

That?s utterly preposterous, and it?s one of the many reasons why Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist must put Reid and the rest of the filibustering Senate Democrats in their place once and for all.

There is no political or constitutional reason why every presidential judicial nomination should not be voted on. That includes nominees for the Supreme Court, the appellate courts, and on down the line. But the Senate Democrats are now standing in the way of near every nominee the president sends over, vowing even to re-filibuster many that the president nominated in his first term.

But before we get into what can be done about this, let?s take a careful look at the Democrats? broader strategy -- which is a carefully constructed plan to obstruct and undermine the conservative?s post-election reform agenda for both foreign and domestic policy.

After blocking the judicial nominees, the Democrats will attempt to obstruct all pro-growth, pro-business legislation that makes it to the Senate. On the energy bill, they could attempt to filibuster any legislated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). They could hold up the budget because they don?t want to extend the president?s tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. If a good asbestos bill comes around, they could obstruct that too. CAFTA and other free-trade opening measures could also be stopped.

It?s already more than judges. Democratic Sen. Max Baucus has a hold on all Treasury Department nominations, including one deputy secretary, two undersecretaries, and three assistant secretaries. One of these assistant positions oversees terrorist money flows. Why is Baucus doing this? Because he doesn?t agree with U.S. policy on Cuba. Instead of filling some important posts in an important government department, he?s aiding the Castro-Chavez axis.

Make no mistake about it: The Democratic strategy is to attempt to encroach on presidential authority in every single area. Why do you think John Bolton is having such a tough time being affirmed for the U.N.? Judges, Treasury, Bolton -- they?re all linked.

There?s a way around this, of course. It?s called the ?nuclear option,? and it?s been used before -- by Senate Democrats.

In 1975, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia introduced a bill that was co-sponsored by liberal Republicans Robert Griffin and Hugh Scott, along with old liberal Democratic warhorse, Mike Mansfield. The intent of this bill was to change the standing rules to permit ?limitation of debate? (i.e., ending a filibuster) with a three-fifths vote of the whole Senate.

The Byrd resolution was postponed indefinitely. But in March 1975 a bill sponsored by then-Sen. Walter Mondale contained the same language as the Byrd bill, and it passed. Any change of the standing rules today is labeled the ?nuclear option.? Back then a rule-change seemed only a small firecracker.

According to reports, Byrd also changed Senate precedents with simple up-or-down majority votes in 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1987. In other words, there is a clear history of rule-changing by the very same ?nuclear option? that Byrd vehemently objects to today.

But once the bomb, or firecracker, goes off in the Senate, the air is going to clear. With an end to judicial filibusters, judges William Pryor, Priscilla Owens, Richard Griffin, Henry Saad, and Susan Neilson will all get a fair shot at being confirmed. The business community, which has been opposed to the nuclear option, will also enjoy the filibuster-free air. Senate Democrats, playing by the new rules, will have a much tougher time standing in the way of tort reform, energy reform, and quite possibly Social Security reform and tax reform.

While there is a precedent for changing the rules in the Senate, there is none for the type of obstructionism we?re seeing from the modern Democratic party. As Hugh Hewitt and Duane Patterson point out, there was exactly 1 judicial nominee filibustered on the Senate floor in the 20th century -- the ethically challenged judge Abe Fortas. There have already been 10 such filibustered nominees in the 21st century, and we?re only 5 years in.

For Byrd, Reid, and the rest of the Democrats to protest that the Senate rules are inviolable, when it?s clear that all they have in mind is their own political advantage, is the height of hypocrisy.

It?s time for the Senate Republicans to go nuclear. It?s time for the president and the GOP to enjoy the mandate they earned in the voting booth last fall.