Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No Nuclear War

Man, everybody in the blogosphere was set for nuclear war this morning. We had our tubs filled with fresh water, we had sealed our windows with duct tape, we were practicing how to duck and cover while manning our keyboards.

And then they made a deal to avert the war!

Seven Republican and seven Democratic moderates agreed to avert a nuclear showdown over the filibuster on the floor of the Senate this morning. Democrats have blocked votes on 10 of Preznit Bush's judicial nominees, claiming the nominees were extremists and didn't deserve life-time appointments to judgeships. Bush and Rove wanted up or down votes on all of their nominees, even though Bush has gotten 218 of 228 nominees appointed.

So Senate Majority Leader and Religious Right Shill Bill Frist was set to force a vote to eliminate the minority's right to filibuster judicial nominees. Republican Whip Mitch McConnell claimed Frist had the votes to ban the filibuster. Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid claimed he had 49 votes against the rules change with four undecideds. He needed two more Republican Senators to beat Frist, because Vice President Cheney would cast the deciding vote in the event of a 50-50 tie.

But 14 moderates from both parties agreed to a compromise that averted the filibuster showdown. The Democrats agreeed to allow votes on three of Bush's nominees, while four others would not get votes. Three other nominees had already withdrawn from the process. Democrats also agreed to only use the filibuster in "extraordinary circumstances" (the definition of the phrase "extraordinary circumstances" was left open to interpretation.) The Republicans agreed to support no changes in Senate rules, effectively defusing Frist's nuclear war before he could press the button. The filibuster remains in place for the Supreme Court nomination process expected later this year when Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down from the bench, though Republicans reserved the right to revisit the filibuster ban if they believe Democrats are using the filibuster for less than "extraordinary circumstances."

So who won and who lost?

I dunno who won, but I know who lost. Bill Frist, looking like a puppy who had been hit on the nose with a newspaper after he peed on the couch, sure looked like a loser last night on the Senate floor as he commented on the compromise agreement. The preznit, who had reiterated yesterday his demand that he get up and down votes on all of his judicial nominees, surely lost. Not only does he not get up or down votes on all of his nominees, but the filibuster remains in place and will be used against him if he nominates some nutcase to replace Rehnquist. This preznit accepts only total victory in all of his political battles, from Social Security privatization to judicial nominations, so any compromise is a net loss. And the right-wing blogosphere and evangelical base who had been pushing strongly for the filibuster ban also came up losers, judging from their reactions to the compromise. Michelle Malkin called the agreement a "Republican buckle" and James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and prime proponent of nuclear war in the Senate, called the agreement "a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."

So we have a nuclear freeze. We'll see how long it holds. Perhaps the first Supreme Court nomination battle will send us scurrying for our duct tape again. But two things are certain; John McCain, leader of the fourteen moderates is sitting pretty today and Bill Frist is not. And George W., with much of his political capital spent just six months into his second term, is not the all-powerful puppetmaster of his party any more. When moderates in the House stick it to the preznit over stem cell research today, the preznit's political capital will be diminshed even more.

But I am glad nuclear war has been averted. Now maybe we can go back to fighting the real war in Iraq, where seven more U.S. military personnel were killed in the last two days.

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