There seems to be no limit on ingenious proposals to reward the obstructionist conduct of Senate Democrats with respect to President Bush’s judicial nominees. All of the proposals seek in some fashion to limit the president’s power in heretofore unknown ways. First, the idea was to develop slates of nominees, most selected by the president; some by the Democrats. Alternatively, maybe the nominees could be the product of negotiations between the president and the Democrats.
Now Norman Ornstein suggests in the Washington Post (a the primary forum for “compromise” proposals) that “to the break the stalemate, give judges less than life [tenure].” Specifically, Ornstein wants to amend the Constitution to eliminate lifetime tenure in favor of a single 15-year term, at least for Supreme Court justices and federal appeals court judges.
On the merits, one can perhaps make a decent case for such an amendment. As a stalemate breaker, however, Ornstein’s idea seems like a non-starter. First, if the Senate Democrats have the will to continue filibustering Bush’s conservative nominees, a 15-year term limit is not likely to break that will. I can just imagine Senator Leahy explaining to Nan Aron that she will only have to put up with Miguel Estrada for 15 years. It is a well known fact among Democrats that conservatives can take away all of our rights in no time flat, never mind 15 years. Second, with four additional Senate seats in Republican hands, and more red state Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2006, it is far from clear that the Democrats will be able to pull off a successful filibuster this time. Now is not the time for Republicans to sue for peace on this issue, thereby rewarding Democrats for their abusive conduct and relieving many of them from their dilemma over how to play this issue going forward.
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