May 24, 2005


How Senate fracas may shape '08: The filibuster fight may help cast midterm elections and give McCain a boost in the next presidential race. (Linda Feldmann, 5/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Among those who appear to be actively considering a run, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona emerges a winner, analysts say. Senator McCain played a significant role in crafting the compromise announced Monday evening by a bipartisan group of 14 senators. And he is no stranger to the spotlight - or the public. In the 2000 presidential race, he nearly knocked off heir-apparent George W. Bush for the GOP nomination.

The agreement on judges "certainly burnished his credentials as an independent thinker and someone who's a problem-solver," says John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron.

McCain's biggest drawback is that his shoot-from-the-hip style makes him unpopular with religious conservatives. But he opposes abortion, and could become palatable to that GOP bloc if he appeared the strongest Republican to face the Democratic nominee, analysts say.

John McCain got a bunch of nominees confirmed who'd been held up for years and gave away nothing in the process. Were Janice Rogers Brown to get a Supreme Court nomination before 2008 he'd come off particularly well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2005 4:18 PM

Orrin, tell me what you're drinking, so that I can order some of it too. Must be pretty strong stuff.

He gave nothing away ?

1) the other two (or four, depending on the count) nominees are tossed under the bus.

2) he solemnly declared that the president should negotiate with senators from both parties on the next nominees. Bye-bye conservative nominees for this Congress and all the Congresses of the foreseeable future.

3) he pulled the rug from under the majority leader, thus demonstrating that the GOP is no longer the real majority. I expect that the magnificent Seven will torpedo all of Bush's priorities. Bye-bye tax reform, social security reform etc... All of that makes you look bad in the MSM, after all.

No wonder Harry Reid is acting like he's president.

Posted by: Peter at May 24, 2005 4:28 PM

If Meyers gets through, I'll agree with you. Otherwise, it was a decidedly non-crafty, unimpressive compromise. If Haynes and Kavanaugh are both torpedoed, as the rumor goes, then it was just a bad deal.

Posted by: Timothy at May 24, 2005 4:31 PM

If they're torpedoed it will be by Lindsay Graham, not by the deal.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 4:35 PM

McCain's drawback isn't so much "his shoot-from-the-hip style" as the fact that he's always aiming at religious conservatives.

McCain "got" judges confirmed. Don't we expect a 55-member Republican majority to "get" a Republican president's distinguished nominees confirmed? Shouldn't all 55 members share that credit?

Posted by: pj at May 24, 2005 4:39 PM


When was Owens nominated? She'll be confirmed within a day of the McCain deal.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 4:42 PM

oj said:

"John McCain got a bunch of nominees confirmed who'd been held up for years and gave away nothing in the process"

Then Peter accused you of drinking. Let me apologize for Peter's accusation, and frame it in a more cognizant form: oj, are you smoking crack?

Posted by: AllenS at May 24, 2005 4:46 PM


(1) They weren't getting through before the deal

(2) The President won't

(3) Frist needed the deal because he didn't have 50 votes.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 4:51 PM

Frist needed the deal because he didn't have 50 votes.

That speculation really doesn't help Frist, who couldn't get his caucus to back the prsident, or McCain, who probably could have delivered the votes, but didn't.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 24, 2005 4:58 PM

OJ-- I think you're talking to Peter, not me. I only agree with him on #1.

The most interesting thing about this deal is that it makes DeWine and Graham essentially the two most powerful people in the Senate--the only two holding back the Nuclear Option, but willing to use it if need be.

Posted by: Timothy at May 24, 2005 5:02 PM


All of them will inevitably be personally offended by everything the others do--that's what happens when your politics is personal.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 5:09 PM


There weren't 50 votes to change the rules. It's a conservative institution.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 5:11 PM

Mr. Judd;

Then how did they get 50 votes to change filibusters to be purely procedural? I still think the push should have been to restore that procedure.

It'd be interesting to compare this discussion to the one about Yalta. In both cases the defenders argue that the agreement doesn't matter because what it gives away was never there in the first place. Oddly, you seem to take opposite sides on the two issues.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 24, 2005 5:17 PM

True, but Collins, Snowe and Chafee all have moderate street cred they need to keep polished. They won't pull the trigger regardless. Warner probably won't either. McCain will only do it if he's sure it it makes him look really good, and thus will probably wait too long. DeWine and Graham will probably be the first to make things happen--they've both said they're ready if the Dems step out of line.

Thus, they have the power to make either Frist or McCain look really good. If I were them, I'd be milking both '08 hopefuls for some serious favors about now.

Posted by: Timothy at May 24, 2005 5:21 PM


Strangely enough I can differentiate between two judges I never heard of until yesterday and the freedom of all of Eastern Europe. The argument here is so heated precisely because the stakes are so low.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 5:23 PM

Collins and Snowe go along to get along. Without the other guys giving them cover they fold.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 5:24 PM

That still gives DeWine and Graham the power.

Posted by: Timothy at May 24, 2005 5:30 PM

To what? They're the only 2 of the 14 on the Judiciary Committee--they always could stop any nominee they want.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 5:34 PM

They'll be the two to bring the Republican 48 up to 50 if they decide the Dems have reneged. At that point, they can let McCain look like he's leading the charge, or they can let Frist take credit (among other things).

Posted by: Timothy at May 24, 2005 5:39 PM

Wasn't OJ for the nuclear option before this deal? And now he's spinning it so the deal looks great because they didn't have 50 votes. Why was he for the nuclear option if they didn't have 50 votes in the first place?

Posted by: Slider at May 24, 2005 7:27 PM

I'm for it if they can get 50. They can't.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 7:41 PM

oj - What "got" the nominees through was the voters who increased the Republican margin to large enough to overcome some liberal defections. Now the Dems can defeat nominees only if people like DeWine and Graham defect, and they're loyal enough to do it only in "extraordinary circumstances".

McCain just got himself to the front of the TV cameras.

As for the nuclear option, if the only choices were the nuclear option or a Dem filibuster, they'd get 50 for the nuclear option. It's the "compromise" alternative that attracted the moderates. If the public sees Supreme Court nominees filibustered abusively (i.e. long past the point of useful debate), the nuclear option will get 50.

Posted by: pj at May 24, 2005 8:42 PM

They've known for years now they need 60.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 8:57 PM

oj - They only needed 50 to remove filibusters on judicial nominees, just as they only needed 50 to remove filibusters on budget bills, military base closings, and free trade agreements.

Having now read comments from the Senators involved, I take back what I said about the moderates consulting with the Bush administration, and add this: Lindsey Graham is dumber than a brick.

Posted by: pj at May 24, 2005 9:52 PM

The rules clearly allow filibusters on bills. On nominees is debatable. At any rate, they didn't have 50 votes to change the rules so they needed 60 to break the filibusters.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 10:20 PM

Whether or not they had 50 is not so important; they would have gotten to 50 sooner or later. This agreement prevents them from getting to fifty until 2007. That's dangerously close to letting the Dems run out the clock on the Bush administration.

They gave up a lot if all we get is 3 appellate nominees through. We'll have to see if the Dems filibuster the Supreme Court nominee.

Posted by: pj at May 24, 2005 10:54 PM

How does it prevent anything?

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 10:57 PM

They agreed not to resort to the nuclear option until 2007, under any circumstances. And the nuclear option can't pass without at least 2 of the 7 supporting it.

Posted by: pj at May 24, 2005 11:07 PM

They said no nuclear option so long as the Democratic 7 only support filibusters in extraordinary circumstances.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 11:22 PM

But they left it to the Dems to define "extraordinary" in good faith. That means no judges to the right of Ginsburg are going to get confirmed in the future. McCain managed to enshrine the former Grand Kleagle's conscience as the absolute norm for judicial appointments. Now that's truly a major accomplishment. Maybe McCain can start naming bridges, schools and highways after himself in Arizona.

Posted by: Peter at May 25, 2005 3:03 AM

Orrin has the right of it on this one.

Before, the judges' nominations were being held up, and the only lever that the GOP had was the equivalent of a car bomb: Big, noisy, likely to inflict friendly-fire casualties, and sure to stop traffic.

Now, some judges will be confirmed, and the car bomb hasn't been defused; they've just taken their fingers off of the trigger, for now.
Remember, successful politics is the art of enjoying half a loaf.

It's like buying autos from Japan while the Japanese are buying U.S. gov't debt - we get to drive around in 'em, they get to worry about currency depreciation.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 25, 2005 6:57 AM


For a moderate only one's own faith is good.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 7:27 AM

oj - No. Read the agreement. You're a lawyer. The Democrats committed to not filibuster except in extraordinary circumstances, with the determination of whether circumstances are extraordinary up to their sole personal discretion and judgment. The Republicans committed not to change the rules, period.

Are you assuming some kind of oral understanding that trumps the written agreement?

Posted by: pj at May 25, 2005 3:52 PM

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

It's got so many conditional clauses as to be meaningless. All it did was get a bunch of judges confirmed.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 3:58 PM