Senate Republicans yesterday rejected a compromise offered by Democrats on judicial nominees. The compromise would have allowed some of President Bush’s conservative nominees to receive simple majority votes in the Senate, and President Bush would have to withdraw the other nominees to the Circuit Courts of Appeals, according to the Washington Post. In addition, Republicans would have had to agree not to change Senate rules to ban future filibusters against judicial nominees. This rule change, known as the “nuclear option,” would prevent filibusters on judicial nominees – including Supreme Court nominees – by requiring only a simple 51-vote majority to close debate and move to a vote on the judges. Present rules require 60 votes to close the debate. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that two out of three Americans oppose changing the rules of the Senate to “make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees.”
“Republican leaders don’t want to compromise,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told the Los Angeles Times. “Republican leaders don’t want Democrats to have a voice in this debate. Republican leaders don’t want any check on their quest for absolute power. They want total victory.”
Today, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) said on the Senate floor, “The Framers sought not to ensure simple majority rule, but to allow minority views – whether they be conservative, liberal, or moderate – to have an enduring role in the Senate in order to check the excess of the majority.”
“Ultimately, this is about removing the last check in Washington against complete abuse of power – the right to extended debate,” said Reid on the Senate floor yesterday. “Once that last check is gone, the radical right will be able to place one of their own on the Supreme Court…The radical right wants a different kind of Supreme Court – one that would roll back equality, liberty, and the rights of all Americans.”
“If President Bush is able to pack the Supreme Court with extreme right-wing justices, women stand to lose the gains of the last 40 years, especially our right to reproductive choice and our hard-won protections against sex discrimination,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. The Feminist Majority is part of a broad coalition of women’s rights, civil rights, lesbian and gay rights, environmental, labor, and disability rights groups that has been urging Senate Democrats to filibuster right-wing, anti-women’s rights nominees to the federal courts.