The use of the Senate filibuster to block floor votes on judicial nominees, as Democrats have been doing, is a distortion of good government in the United States. I fully endorse Senate Republican leader Bill Frist's pushing the "nuclear" button to change Senate rules so this can no longer be done.
Even if you buy the argument that the filibuster is an important procedure to protect minority interests in the Senate, this still should not apply to judicial nominations.
Because the nominating process is fundamentally different from the legislative process.
The checks and balances and institutional bias toward deliberation in government is critical in our free country. Although, as result, we rarely get legislation that makes anyone completely happy, this is the price of freedom and a participatory democracy. We have a process of give-and-take and compromise.
But nominees up for confirmation cannot be put into the same kind of sausage-making machine that produces legislation. A controversial bill can be debated, amended, tweaked and, yes, filibustered. There always remains the opportunity for another nip and tuck. If the president doesn't like what ultimately gets sent to him, he can veto it and then Congress still gets another vote on the vetoed bill.
Unlike legislation, we can't take human beings apart and then put them back together to create a new product that will pass the consensus test. Either you take them as they are or reject them. Nominations, then, that pass out of committee should be submitted for a simple up-or-down floor vote.
Furthermore, legislative initiatives are capricious. We don't have to have new bills. However, we do have to have the federal bench staffed. The president has an obligation to nominate judges and the Senate has an obligation to vote on the nominees.
It seems pretty clear to me that the point of the process of advice and consent in the Senate, which defines its review of the president's nominees, is to ensure that we have qualified candidates. It should not be about having senators insert personal political opinions regarding a nominee's views on particular subject matter.
By definition, because it is the responsibility of the president to nominate judges, and because the people of the nation democratically elect the president, it is only reasonable to expect the judges that get nominated to reflect the worldview of our president.
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