Courtesy of Real Clear Politics and the Weekly Standard, here is Terry Eastland’s take on the filibustering by Senate Democrats of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Although Eastland considers the filibustering “outrageous” on the merits, he sees it as another example of the Democrats shooting themselves in the foot. Indeed, he “invite[s] the Democrats to stay their stupid course,” because he thinks it hands the Republicans a great issue in the 2004 Senate races.
I’m not so sure. Can we really expect that, in a presidential election year, the fate of half a dozen or so federal appeals court judges is going to be a decisive issue in any Senate race? I imagine that even the Democrats will be sensible enough not to filibuster nominess from states in which closely contested Senate races will occur (Miguel Estrada, for example, is a Washington, D.C. lawyer and, although he is Hispanic, his treatment seems not to resonate with Hispanic voters). Thus, I consider it unlikely that voters will punish Democratic candidates for filibustering Bush’s nominees.
However, to the extent that Republican strategists agree with Eastland’s assessment to the contrary, it seems to me that Republicans still should behave differently than they are behaving. First, shouldn’t they force the Democrats to engage in a real filibuster (speaking around the clock, etc.) so that the issue will come more prominently into public consciousness? Second, shouldn’t President Bush fill vacant judgeships with conservative recess (i.e., temporary) appointees? If these two steps can be taken together, they might increase the potential political price (if any) of the filibustering, while reducing its adverse consequences on the judiciary.
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