Saturday, May 14, 2005

Back from the Brink?

The LA Times, Washington Post, and New York Times all prominently cover Senator Frist's announcement from yesterday that he will begin debate on the nuclear option after the completion of the highway bill, on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. The LAT adds to the basic report that "Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, noted that the two Senate leaders were scheduled to get together Sunday night at a dinner Frist is hosting for several senators at his home," as efforts to reach a compromise apparently continue. The WP has details on one possible agreement, which would

"guarantee that two of the nominees would be confirmed and the other five would be granted votes with no assurance of the outcome. The handling of the other five nominees remains the main sticking point between the GOP and Democratic leaders.

Democrats are insisting that in exchange for clearing the way for two of the judges to be confirmed, Frist would have to promise not to seek to change the filibuster rule on judicial nominees through 2006. Under the negotiations, Republicans could choose which two nominees would be cleared.

In a related negotiation, both leaders are monitoring an effort led by two moderate senators, Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), to amass five other Democrats and five other Republicans who would assure that the two nominees are approved. Nelson, McCain and the 10 other senators are participating in ongoing talks, people on both sides of the negotiations said."

Under this agreement, the filibuster would remain intact, with enough Democrats voting for (at least) two of the judges to break the filibuster and confirm them. The Post adds "negotiators believe they may have the seed of a real solution that allows Frist to bring all the nominees to floor, while leaving the filibuster rule intact," but that nothing is confirmed yet. This WP piece is the most optimistic I have read in quite some time, and makes the rather common-sensical point that "Although the most vociferous Democratic and Republican factions appear to be itching for a showdown, many rank-and-file senators are loath to tamper with Senate rules and are weary of the judicial battle, a massive distraction that threatens to grind business to a halt for months to come."

I applaud those senators involved in the negotiations attempting to reach a compromise. It is heartening, to say the least, that senators are working - and apparently quite diligently - to bring us back from the nuclear brink. Their efforts should be encouraged by all sides, but it will be us centrists who provide the real support for them. The exremists at both ends will yell and shout and carry on, but that should be a sign to the moderates that they're doing exactly what needs to be done. Harry Truman was quoted once as saying "... the crackpots are having conniption fits. I'm glad they are. It convinces me I'm right."

Good luck to the peacemakers, even as they catch hell from both sides.


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