I got a letter today. This, in and of itself, is interesting; but what makes it moreso is the author of said letter: Senator John McCain.
A couple months back I e-mailed the good Senator (along with about 55 of his colleagues) arguing that the judicial filibuster deserves to be overridden, and he should honor the efforts of all those out here who worked tirelessly to elect a Republican President along with a Republican Senate. So this was his response--and, by the way, I'm not certain of the propriety of reproducing his letter in full, so if someone out there with a better grasp of blog etiquette has a comment, please do so quickly:
Thank you for contatcting me to share your views regarding the filibustering of judicial nominees. I appreciate the opportunity to explain my position.
I support the President'sjudicial nominees, and I agree that Senate Democrats have too often used the filibuster to prevent the full Senate from exercising its responsibility to either confirm or reject his nominees. Recently, I and thirteen of my colleagues, seven Democrats and seven Republicans, agree to support an up or down vote on three of the President's judicial nominees who had previously been filibustered, and to resort to the filibuster only in the most extraordinary circumstances.
As of this writing, our agreement has paved the way for a successful confirmation vote on six nominees, including William Pryor, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. I am confident that the vast majority if not all of the Presiden's pending nominees to the federal bench who have been denied a confirmation vote or threatened with a filiubster as well as future nominees will receive a vote on the Senate floor thans, in large part, to our agreement and to our seven Democrat colleagues whoe good faith has been evident in their most recent votes to end the filibuster on the judges identified above. I would respectufully suggest that conservative critics of our agreement suspend judgment on the effect of our agreement or our motives until after it has been further tested in upcoming confirmation votes. It has clearly worked quite well thus far, and I anticipate it will continue to do so.
Senate rules specify that a two-thirds majority of Senators is required to chang a Senate rule. That has been the practive here for many, many years. The "constitutional" or "nuclear" option would have changed the Senate rule on filibusters with only a simple 51 vote majority. I opposed trying to change a rule by breaking another rule. In the past, Republicans have felt it necessary to use the filibuster to block a Democratic Presiden's nominees. We did not use the filibuster to block President Clinton's judicial nominees because we successfully prevented many of those nominees from coming to the Seante floor for a vote or from even receiving a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please know that ayone who claims Republicans haven't prevented Democratic nominees who had the support of a mafority of Senators from receiving an up or down vote on the Senate floor is simply not telling you the truth. We have blocked nominees and in many instances we have had good reason to do so.
Someday, I hope none too soon, Republicans will again be in the minority and a Democrat will be elected President. I am not prepared to surrender a minoity right to restrain future Democratic Senate majorities and future Democratic presidents. Nor do I think it wise to chane Senate rule by freaking a Senate rule and perhaps encouraging a future Democratic majority from doing the same thing in debates on judicial nominees, other executive nominees, or even legislation. Having said that, I also believe the filibuster should be used only sparingly. I think the agreement we achieved has restored that discretion and sense of responsibility to the debate, making it clear the filibusters should only be emplyed in "extraordinary circumstances." Obviously, future nominations will further test our agreement, but the record so far is encouraging.
thank you for making me aware of your concerns.
United States Senator
I don't know exactly where to start with this. Maybe with the smug self-congratulation: while it is true that six new judges have been approved by the Senate since this agreement, it is also surely true that these six would likewise be judges today had the "constitutional option" been invoked. Perhaps I could start with the subtle pessimism in his assessment that the GOP will not always be the majority: while that is likely true, it has been a long time since the Dems commanded both a ten-vote majority in the Senate and the White House. The thwarting of such an obvious majority seems the more egregious sin than the opposition by a majority. Or, I know, how about the wilful naivete with which he credits the Dems with a future reluctance to invoke the "constitutional option"?: Nor do I think it wise to change Senate rule by breaking a Senate rule and perhaps encouraging a future Democratic majority from doing the same thing . . . Does he honestly think that the Dems would not invoke the "C.O." at the first whiff of a filibuster?
Actually, I do share Sen. McCain's bright assessment of the current situation vis-a-vis judges; at the moment, the GOP does have the upper hand. But I also think the John Bolton fiasco needs to remind us that the Dems will not have second thoughts about going down the filibuster road in the future if they think nobody's looking.