The Senate's Constitutional right and duty to "advise and consent" on the President's judicial nominees is being denied by a minority of Democratic Senators who refuse to let these nominees be voted on. Since Republicans have a majority in the Senate, they have the power to change Senate rules, so that a minority of Senators can no longer prevent the full Senate from voting on judicial nominees.
Such a rule change is referred to as "the nuclear option," since it would be a major change that could provoke major retaliation by the Democrats, both in obstructing current legislation and in the future using that same rule to ride roughshod over Republicans whenever the Democrats gain control of the Senate.
An aging Supreme Court means that there is now a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop the erosion of democratic self-government by putting advocates of judicial restraint, rather than judicial activism, on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.
Senate Democrats understand how high the stakes are. But do the Republicans? President Bush clearly does but Republican Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, either doesn't know or doesn't care about the larger Constitutional issues. He is siding with the Democrats in the name of compromise.
Senator William Frist, the Republican majority leader, says he has the votes to change Senate rules to prevent a minority from denying the full Senate the right to vote on judicial nominees. Senator Frist also had the votes to prevent Senator Specter from becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee but he didn't do it. He chose to avoid a fight.
That is not a hopeful sign for what to expect when high noon comes on the President's judicial nominees.