It’s time for up-or-down votes on all judicial nominees -- now and in the future. Any solution from the Dirty Dozen that falls short of that requirement should be shot down on sight.

The Magnificent Seven Confront the Dirty Dozen

As the debate over judicial confirmations rages on the Senate floor, a Dirty Dozen Senators have been trying to cut a backroom deal that would allow them to avoid voting on the Constitutional Option and permit the Democrats to continue obstructing President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Meanwhile, seven Republican Senators who were first elected in last November -- Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) -- held a press conference on Thrusday, May 19 to announce their support for the Constitutional Option.

Call it the Magnificent Seven versus the Dirty Dozen.

Looking past the spin, any Dirty Dozen deal will deny at least some of the judicial nominees up-or-down votes. In addition, any agreement would also preserve the Democrats’ ability to filibuster future nominees, including nominees to the Supreme Court.

Over the last few days, the Democrats have offered to confirm as many a five of the seven currently filibustered nominees, if only the Republicans let them retain the “right” to filibuster. Indeed, Minority Leader Harry Reid stood on the floor of the Senate on Thursday and offered to confirm several of the nominees. But the existence of such an offer belies the Democrats’ hysterical protestations about the nominees’ backgrounds, qualifications or ideology.

As Senator Isakson observed on the Senate floor on Thursday, “One of the deals that was offered was: ‘tell you what, we will approve any five, you just give us two we are not going to approve.’… Does that tell you they care anything about qualifications? Why, if you thought there was an unqualified judge, would you let the other side pick five and not pick two? I don't think qualifications are the issue.”

So the Dirty Dozen’s own proposals demonstrate that the Democrats’ campaign of obstruction exists only for its own sake.

On the other hand, the Magnificent Seven are making a much more principled and crucial argument. According to the Constitution, the Senate has the power to make its rules. However, because previous Senates have said that the chamber’s rules carry over from one session to the next, these newcomers now find themselves bound by rules they had no part in writing or even approving. To paraphrase Senator Robert Byrd (now one of the Dirty Dozen), these seven freshmen are bound by the dead hand of the past.

The Magnificent Seven reason that they, along with a majority of their current colleagues, should have a right to craft the Senate’s rules under the authority granted to them by the Constitution. Especially since many promised their constituents during their recent campaigns that they would work for simple up-or-down votes on the President’s nominees. This argument is the critical foundation underlying Majority Leader BillFrist’s impending move to allow a majority of Senators to overcome the Democrats’ obstruction and hold fair up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.

The Magnificent Seven are right. The Constitution and simple common sense demand that the Democrats’ campaign of obstruction be ended once and for all. It’s time for up-or-down votes on all judicial nominees -- now and in the future. Any solution from the Dirty Dozen that falls short of that requirement should be shot down on sight.

May 23, 2005
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