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April 28, 2005
Frist Stands Firm, Sets No Timetable

Senator Bill Frist reiterated today that the Republicans would accept no compromise that allowed Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees that have received approval from the Judiciary Committee. He told Minority Leader Harry Reid that he would offer up to 100 hours of debate, but in the end all nominees clearing the committee must receive an up-or-down vote:

With a showdown looming, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused to budge Thursday on his demand that Democrats forgo filibusters against all of President Bush's past or present nominees to federal appellate court benches or the Supreme Court.

"Throughout this debate, we have held firm to a simple principle, judicial nominees deserve up-or-down votes," Frist said.

But Frist offered to retain the right to filibuster district court nominees in exchange for 100 hours of debate and guaranteed confirmation votes on the nation's highest judgeships. The Senate's top Republican also said that under his plan, senators would no longer be able to block nominees in the Judiciary Committee.

Reid, of course, turned this offer down, describing it as a "big wet kiss to the far right," proving that Jack Layton isn't the only North American politician with a tin ear for phrasing. He demands that Democrats retain the right to deny votes to any nominee they choose, insisting that minority rights would get "extinguished" at the end of 100 hours of debate. "This has never been about the lengths of the debate. This is about checks and balances."

Au contraire, Senator. All along during this battle, we have heard from Democrats that the GOP's rule change was an attack on free speech. Senator Byrd exclaimed on the Senate floor that free speech and debate would be "dead, dead, dead!" if Frist and the GOP put the Constitutional option in play. The Democrats have claimed this as an attack on the First Amendment as well as those "checks and balances" that they claim hinge on the use of the filibuster.

However, this offer by Frist cleverly flushes out the Democrats, although the Exempt Media will certainly miss this nuance. 100 hours of debate equals at least three weeks of Senate floor time, perhaps more, during a normal work schedule. It allows for every member to spend an hour discussing a nominee's shortcomings as well as their strengths. If the Democrats have evidence of unfitness for the nominees, they will have plenty of time to present it.

Why, then, don't they take the offer? Because they would have nothing specific to say, and 50 hours in which to say it. Reid and his caucus would look pretty foolish, repeating the same old tired clichs over and over again for hours on end. They aren't fighting for debate or free speech -- they want to avoid having to defend their opposition at all costs. The Democrats want to limit the debate to sound-bite sniping in the sympathetic press, not be granted scads of time that will ultimately expose the lack of evidence they have of any unfitness or impropriety on any of these nominees.

One cheer for Bill Frist, who finally has engaged in some public relations on behalf of the filibuster limitation. However, 100 hours of debate means that it will take seven months to get the seven nominees currently stalled by the Democrats into a position to get confirmed. That would push one or two off until 2006, and even that might change when a Supreme Court position opens up. Now that we've wasted almost four months of the new session, Frist's offer has a pretty severe limitation as to the number of appellate nominations that Bush can get through this Congress. Perhaps Frist's office needs a calculator before making these offers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 28, 2005 5:01 PM

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» Kudos to Frist from Slublog
I have to admit, I'm impressed. Frist's compromise plan is pretty good, and if the Democrats reject it, they risk losing the PR battle. Captain Ed has a good analysis.... [Read More]

Tracked on April 28, 2005 9:05 PM

» Compromise on judges from Don Singleton
Frist knew that the Dems would never take him up on his offer. But the offer should look to wavering Republicans like he went the last mile trying to work things out, and that there was no alternative to the Constitutional/Nuclear option, and therefo... [Read More]

Tracked on April 28, 2005 10:43 PM

» Enough already: kill the filibuster from The Key Monk
This farce has gone on too long and the Republican Senators who are happy to accede to Democratic tactics (McCain, Chafee, etc.) are complicit in this hijacking of the Constitution. This is not a checks-and-balances issue: the check is the Senate's abi... [Read More]

Tracked on April 29, 2005 11:20 AM

» Kiss Me! from M.A.W.B. Squad
Senate majority leader Bill Frist offered the Democrats a compromise on judicial nominations yesterday, 100 hours of debate followed by an up or down vote. [Read More]

Tracked on April 29, 2005 3:22 PM

» Like Parrots In A Dyslexia Ward from Hard Starboard
Say what you want about the Democrats' collective psychosis on the President's judicial selections - and I'm about to - but if you're a Republican, you have to admire this degree of "on the same page-ism." If only elected Pachyderms could be this dis... [Read More]

Tracked on May 2, 2005 1:58 AM

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