Spineless, but with extenuating circumstances

Loree Byrd of Polipundit adds an excellent insight to my post about the Republican defeat in the judicial confirmation wars. I had argued that, although the precedent the Democrats have set with respect to the blocking judicial appointments is not inherently bad for Republicans, it is doubtful that the Republicans will have the resolve to duplicate the Democrats’ efforts when it is their turn to obstruct Democratic nominees. Byrd pinpoints part of the reason why:
“The Republicans would never get away with what the Democrats have. If the Republicans on the judiciary committee were not even allowing up or down votes on qualified judges and then memos turned up suggesting that part of their motivation was based on the race of the nominees, the media would have discovered this story long ago and it would have rivaled the hooded, naked Iraqi prisoner story for media outrage. This has to be one of the most important stories to ever be almost completely ignored by the media.”
HINDROCKET adds: Dafydd ab Hugh argues that spinelessness isn’t necessarily the reason why Bush and Frist cut a deal with the Democrats. Dafydd’s analysis is too lengthy to quote in full here, but this is the core of his argument:

There are only three options: the status quo ante, where the Dems bottle up all future nominees in an unprecedented act of petulance; in this case, Frist and Bush take the case to the American people in November. The problem with this method is that I don’t believe anyone has ever made a successful case on the national level to install the incumbent party wholesale into the Senate on the grounds of increased judicial confirmations. It’s simply so far below the radar of most voters that it will not resonate.
The second is to use the “nuclear option” to blow away the ability of the Senate Democrats to fillibuster nominees and prevent them from getting a vote. But here is the problem with that approach: every method of doing this requires an absolute majority of senators voting to change the rules after the president of the Senate refuses to recognize the entire Democratic caucus screaming out their objections and howling about censorship and dictatorship, and the
majority must stand together despite being called Nazis. [Dafydd concludes that the Republicans do not currently have the votes to sustain the nuclear option.]
The only thing left is option three: cut a deal with Daschle. I suspect Bush simply hopes to rush through all the non-controversial nominations and get them voted on. It’s not a particularly powerful election issue, and Frist can’t win the nuclear vote at this point… so there’s no other choice.
Bush is opting for splitting the pot and waiting for the next deal, in which he will probably have a much better hand than he has now.

DEACON responds: Dafydd has told us he expects President Bush to be re-elected handily and expects the Republicans to gain Senate seats. In that scenario, little is lost either by making the deal or by not making not. But if President Bush loses, the deal is a bad one because the Democrats are not going to confirm any conservatives and Bush will be unable to make recess appointments. The real point, though, is the spinelessness of the Republicans over the past few years that led us to the point where this deal can perhaps be viewed as reasonable. In that regard, see Dafydd’s discussion of the “nuclear” option. Finally, I believe that the issue (especially if it had been played better) does present the Republicans with a potential political advantage, not nationally, but in key Senate races. And the more the Democrats obstruct, the more races this advantage emerges in. Thus, it seems to me that Dafydd’s first option holds more promise than he acknowledges.


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