Rethinking Frist's Compromise

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rethinking Frist's Compromise

A few weeks back, I dismissed the so-called compromise put forward by Sen. Frist, but the more I think about it, I wonder if it might not be a smart move for the Democrats to accept it.

The Senate showdown is now underway and it remains to be seen whether Frist has the votes needed to go nuclear. If he doesn't there is no need for Democrats to compromise. But if they suspect that he does and thus won't accept any of their compromise proposals, they should consider accepting his, mainly because the central plank of the proposal could prove useful
Guaranteed up or down votes on judicial nominations.

– Circuit Court and Supreme Court nominees will receive an up or down vote on the US Senate floor.

– District Court nominees unaffected - no current problem.

Guaranteed debate time on judicial nominations.

– Up to 100 hours of debate which allows all members an opportunity to have their say.


Guaranteed fairness for Senators and nominees.

– No blockade at committee.

– Full and comprehensive debate - with an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
100 of debate on controversial nominees does not sound like much, but if Democrats threatened to apply the 100 hour rule to every one of Bush's nominees unless the Senate leadership agreed to forego confrontation on the controversial ones, they might actually succeed in keeping them off the bench.

100 hours is a long time to halt Senate business to debate a nominee. Bush currently has 17 nominees awaiting approval and he is sure to make more nominations in the future. Insisting on 100 hours of debate for every nominee would eat up months and force the GOP to choose between pushing its legislative agenda and insisting on the confirmation of a few controversial judges.

If the GOP agrees not to bring the controversial nominees to the floor, then Democrats would agree not to demand the 100 hours of debate on the non-controversial nominees and the Senate can get on with its business.

Accepting the Frist compromise, especially if Democrats think they might lose on the nuclear vote, might be a smart move.

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