Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nuclear Option Results

I have no idea how this vote over filibustering judicial nominees will play out, but for that matter no one else does either, including the White House, Sen. Frist or Sen Reid. My guess is that the GOP will prevail, but I have enough questions about the GOP Senate traditionalist out there (Warner, Bennett, Lugar, Roberts) and whether they will ultimately place partisan loyalty over institutional loyalty, that almost any result is possible.

I can see the Dems winning the cloture vote, or the Republicans. I can imagine a compromise that avoids a vote or even Sen. Frist pulling back because he knows he doesn't have the votes. Frankly, I can imagine any result, but one, the one that Mickey Kaus hypothesizes: enough Democrats voting for cloture to avoid the nuclear option fight for now. For Democrats this would be worse than losing the vote, it would be losing face and showing that you have feet of clay. One way or another this has to be decided now, either through compromise or vote.

The Republicans could afford to back down, they have the majority and Frist & Co. could their partisans, "better to walk away than lose this fight now, we'll fight another day over the Supreme Court." But for Democrats backing away now would be tantamount to surrendering. It is saying we were going to lose and all of the tough talk was just bluster, so instead we'll lose on a Supreme Court nominee and probably lose the PR battle as well.

My advice to the Democrats in the Senate is this: you face being as marginalized as Democrats in the House, unless you fight this fight, and then react accordingly. It you lose, create the procedural nightmares for the Senate GOP that your threatened to do and don't worry about the bad PR the chattering class will give you about being obstructionist (you are the minority party, you are supposed to be obstructionist); if you win, be gracious, don't overplay your hand and only filibuster nominees that truly, truly deserve it. And remember, even if you lose, the precedent is there, and the next Democrat President will have an easier life.