Patterico's Pontifications

4/27/2005

L.A. Times Spins Controversy over Judicial Filibusters to Favor Democrats

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:14 am



There has been no resolution in the U.S. Senate of the dispute over the use of the filibuster to block President Bush’s nominees.

How do you figure that has been portrayed in today’s L.A. Times story on the issue?

Your choices are:

a) The Republicans have attempted to resolve matters through compromise, but the Democrats have rebuffed the offers and insisted on the right to filibuster.

b) The Democrats have attempted to resolve matters through compromise, but the Republicans have rebuffed the offers and insisted on the elimination of the filibuster.

c) Each side has made an offer of “compromise” that the other side considers unserious.

If you guessed choice “b,” you win the gold star.

Here’s how today’s article begins:

Republicans Reject Democrats’ Offer to Settle Judicial Dispute

The deal would allow votes on three nominees. But the GOP says it’s focusing on future picks.

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Tuesday rebuffed a Democratic overture aimed at ending a confrontation over federal judges, saying that any agreement must include a pledge not to filibuster future nominees — especially Supreme Court nominees.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered to back away from Democratic filibusters on three of seven of President Bush’s appellate court nominees if Republicans would pledge not to change Senate rules to end the use of the parliamentary tactic to stall votes on proposed judges.

But Republicans said they were less concerned about current nominees than they were about future ones, especially with an anticipated Supreme Court vacancy this summer.

Now, that sounds like an offer by the Democrats and a counteroffer by the Republicans. More accurately, it sounds like a ridiculous offer by the Democrats, and an equally ridiculous counteroffer (described further down in the story) by the Republicans. But the story’s angle is: Republicans are rejecting compromise.

I can best illustrate what I mean by rewriting the story to reflect the opposite spin. I could easily begin the story in this way, using the same exact facts reported in the story:

Democrats Reject Republicans’ Offer to Settle Judicial Dispute

The deal would allow a change to committee procedures. But Democrats want the right to block GOP future picks.

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Tuesday rebuffed a Republican offer aimed at ending a confrontation over federal judges, saying that they would accept no agreement that restricted future use of the filibuster.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered to change committee procedures in return for an end to judicial filibusters.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on on both sides,” he said. “This is a way to cure that.”

But Democrats said they were less concerned about current nominees than they were about future ones, especially with an anticipated Supreme Court vacancy this summer. They insisted that Republicans pledge not to change Senate rules to end the use of the parliamentary tactic to stall votes on proposed judges, leaving the two sides at an impasse.

See the difference? That is effectively the mirror image of the spin presented in today’s story, in which Republicans are the ones portrayed rebuffing a compromise.

Why this particular spin?

I don’t know for sure. But I do know this: the spin of today’s story matches the spin that Democrats are putting on the impasse:

“Republican leaders don’t want compromise,” Reid said. “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.”

And so do you, Sen. Reid. You want the absolute right to block any judge that doesn’t meet your party’s preferred judicial philosophy. Even though Republicans have won the Presidency and a majority of the seats in the Senate, you don’t want them to have the ability to place judges on the bench who reflect their preferred judicial philosophy.

Lucky for you, you have found at least one newspaper happy to portray the controversy the way you’d like it portrayed.

UPDATE: I finally looked at the article in the dead trees edition of the paper (I blogged this entry from the Internet version). The article in the paper obligingly runs a photo of Harry Reid standing in front of a lectern that prominently states: “PROTECT OUR RIGHTS. STOP THE PARTISAN POWER GRAB.” It’s as prominent as the headline of the story.

8 Responses to “L.A. Times Spins Controversy over Judicial Filibusters to Favor Democrats”

  1. […] nominees — especially Supreme Court nominees. (More on yesterday’s article in my post from yesterday.) Today Bill […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Confrontation on Filibusters: Once Again the Republicans’ Fault (0c6a63)

  2. As I understand it, the deal is to approve two of 3 6th circuit judges, with the thrid to be named by Carl Levin, whose relative’s non-confirmation during the Clinton era started all this.

    I wonder what would have been reported if it had been Orin Hatch’s relative involved.

    Far as I’m concerned, they can have this deal: Stop filibustering confirmations — you’ve made your point — and we’ll not nuke the power. Otherwise GFY.

    And utterly no deal that doesn’t put Janice Brown on the DC Court. Either DC Court. Frist is playing with fire if he pulls the plug on this.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  3. Help me out here:

    What exactly are the Republicans supposed to be giving up in Patterico’s alleged compromise? Frist has said he wants up-down votes on all nominees and doesn’t want filibusters in the future. It’s hard to see exactly where that is any sort of compromise.

    Reid, by contrast, has offered to let a few nominations through if others are withdrawn. That’s compromise, see: Reid is giving something up.

    [You left out the part about Reid’s demand that the GOP promise to allow filibusters in the future. That’s kind of important. We get 3 lousy nominees and promise to give the Dems a veto power over all future nominees, including Supreme Court. That’s a non-starter.

    As for the GOP proposal, it’s briefly described in my post and in the linked article. The details are sketchy, but I’m willing to bet it’s a non-starter too. Just like I said: each side has made an offer that the other side considers non-serious. So why does the LAT blame only Republicans for the impasse? — Patterico]

    By the way, the filibuster requires 41 votes to be sustained. Where was the Republican belly-aching back in the 90s when single, invariably Republican, senators placed holds on Clinton nominations? I don’t remember any. Why was that acceptable and this is not?

    m.croche (2b27a8)

  4. wait, what was the GOP offer?

    Frankly I think frist et al are painting themselves into the unpopular nuclear corner.

    actus (0f2616)

  5. Never before have appellate level judicial nominees with majority support in the Senate been filibustered. Never.

    President Bush has the lowest appellate court confirmation rate, with a full third of his nominees stalled and filibustered…some of those good people have given up and withdrawn their names.

    The 205 confirmations the dems are touting right now were for lower level courts — you won’t hear/read that in the MSM or from the dem pundits.

    Ann (680adb)

  6. What a difference a few years and a change in administrations makes! Here are Senator Boxer’s thoughts on the role of senators, taken from the congressional record in May, 1997:

    “According to the U.S. Constitution, the President nominates, and the Senate shall provide advice and consent. It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor.” (5/14/97, p. S4420)

    Senator Boxer’s own words expose her blatant, partisan hypocrisy and condemn her ongoing obstructionism denying “highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor.”

    And Kevin, I agree — Justice Brown needs to be confirmed. Her nomination has been languishing since July ’03! For anyone not familiar with Janice Brown, you can find her resume on the DOJ website. This woman grew up attending segregated schools in the South, put herself through college and law school here in CA, and is the first African American elected to the California Supreme Court. She was reelected by California voters with a whopping 76% of the vote!!

    Of all people, I would think that Senator Boxer would — and should — delight in supporting a woman, a minority, and one of California’s shining examples of excellence.

    Ann (680adb)

  7. Where was the Republican belly-aching back in the 90s when single, invariably Republican, senators placed holds on Clinton nominations?

    Who exactly had holds placed on them? Was it within traditional Senate procedures or was it something new? Were there 51 votes to confirm?

    Gerald A (bdfba2)

  8. A “hold” isn’t forever — until the last months of a term, all a hold does is delay. The current filibusters have been going on in some cases for 4 years.

    Read Dole’s column in todays NY Times, where he says that the filibuster was considered beyond the pale for judicial nominations when he was in the minority.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)


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