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May 23, 2005
Deal Reached? (Live Blog)

News services are reporting that a centrist group of 12 Senators has reached a compromise on judicial confirmations:

Centrists from both parties reached a compromise Monday night to avoid a showdown on President Bush's stalled judicial nominees and the Senate's own filibuster rules, officials from both parties said.

These officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would clear the way for yes-or-no votes on some of Bush's nominees, but make no guarantee.

Under the agreement, Democrats would pledge not to filibuster any of Bush's future appeals court or Supreme Court nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances."

For their part, Republicans agreed not to support an attempt to strip Democrats of their right to block votes.

Under the agreement, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated to a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, would advance to a final confirmation vote.

If the Republicans have foresworn the Byrd option without an ironclad guarantee that the filibuster will not be used on nominees with majority support, then they have traded their hard-won majority for de facto minority status -- and the leadership will have to answer for this result. Let's see what the exact wording of the agreement will be. More later as it develops.

UPDATE: Coming into the middle of the press conference ... so far all I'm hearing is general rhetoric. "Good faith, mutual respect, and trust." Ooooo-kaaaaay. What are the particulars?

Michelle Malkin caught it from the beginning and says that Brown, Myers, and Owen will get their votes, although I think she means Pryor instead of Myers. Saad and Myers -- tossed under the bus.

Graham: "I changed my vote because we're at war and kids are dying." Strictly speaking, the kids swore to protect and defend the Constitution, while it sounds like these centrists just sold it out.

Fox News won't break away from the O'Reilly Factor? ...

So far, no one really has the agreement, but from what I've seen on television up to now, the GOP only got votes for 3 nominees and the Democrats still get to keep the judicial filibuster "under extraordinary circumstances." This is the exact scenario that I foresaw when I heard that the centrists were gathering in the smoke-filled room. They coughed up the Constitution and got guaranteed votes on less than half of their nominees.

Reid: "This is a significant victory for our country..." No, it's a significant victory for Reid. He just smoked Frist, and now he's using that hard-won "comity" to blast Bush and Cheney for power grabbing and perverting the Constitution. Yeah, great going, GOP.

Reid: Filibusters will continue on Saad and Myers.

Frist: Deal will require "careful monitoring". For what? You just gave away the store!

Frist is continuing to spin this into a win for the nominees, but it's not going to fly. The Democrats blocked at least two of the nominees and made no substantive guarantees to stop their obstructionism. He did say that "All options remain on the table, including the Constitutional option," but the momentum has clearly been brought to a halt.

This, in short, has been a clear victory for the Democrats and a massive failure for the GOP and the White House. The GOP just endorsed the filibuster, and will have no intellectual capacity to argue against its use later on. They sold the Constitution just to get less than half of its blockaded nominees through, and the result will be much less flexibility on future Supreme Court nominations.

Schumer: It's the White House's fault for not consulting with the Senate before making his nominations, like Clinton, Bush, and Reagan. Er, Chuck ... does the name Robert Bork ring a bell??

UPDATE: The Gang of Seven for the Republicans: McCain, Warner, Graham, Chaffee, Collins, Snowe, and DeWine. You can add Bill Frist to that list, for stalling this debate until the momentum from the previous election had dissipated.

The text of the agreement:

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.

This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senates Judiciary Committee.

We have agreed to the following:

Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations

A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).

B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations

A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word Advice speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the Presidents power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.

We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.

UPDATE II: DeWine, not Specter. I made the adjustment above.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 23, 2005 6:44 PM

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