Monday, May 08, 2006

Debate over Judges Resumes

Sheryl Gay Stolberg has a report in today's NYTimes which seems to suggest that we're going to be hearing a whole lot more about the Gang of 14 in the coming weeks. The debate over federal judges is resuming in DC, and conservatives are pushing for a fight that could once again lead to a debate over the so-called "nuclear option."

Part of the compromise reached last year by the Gang of 14 was that the group made no determination on the ultimate fate of two judicial nominees: Terence Boyle and Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh's confirmation is currently on the radar of Senate Majority Leader Bill "Just Don't Make Me Talk About Stem Cells" Frist, who recently pledged to hold a vote on Kavanaugh by the end of May. The seven Gang of 14 Democrats requested that the Judiciary Committee hold a second hearing on the nomination, which Chairman Arlen Specter agreed to do. That hearing will occur tomorrow.

Senator Specter's acquiescence to the request of the Democrats seems to me entirely reasonable. Of criticism he's received for allowing another hearing to go forward, Specter said "That's why my job is so difficult, to avoid the fight, because there are so many people hankering for one." Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, and several Republican senators are quoted in the article speaking favorably of provoking a fight with Democrats over judges.

The Gang of 14 is planning to meet on Thursday - after the hearing - to discuss the Kavanaugh nomination. I agree with Stolberg that a filibuster is somewhat unlikely over Kavanaugh, but that the Boyle nomination (which is still languishing, but is being pushed heavily by the right) would be a much more contentious battle which can hopefully be avoided.

Make no mistake - this is no principled push for the confirmation of judges. This is a blatantly and baldly-stated partisan effort to rile up conservative voters before the elections this fall. The American people should have none of it, and the Gang of 14 along with the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee should have none of it either.


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