Initially I was inclined to think that the Republicans had been taken yet again, and that John McCain had sold out his party. Perhaps it is my traditional discomfort as a conservative who relies on the Republican party to fight the good fight that caused me to expect a surrender of some sort. Now, though, I'm not so sure.
The details of the deal are well known, so I won't repeat them here. The implications, I think are less clear, but as I read the landscape the key results are the following:
- Owen, Rogers, and Pryor will receive up or down votes in the near future. This virtually guarantees their confirmation
- Future nominees will only be filibustered in "extraordinary circumstances".
- The deal is silent on the remaining nominees, but all except Saad have sufficient senatorial support, and are also less controversial than the three mentioned in the deal.
- The nuclear option is reserved for use in future instances of bad behavior by the Dems
- The filibuster, which can be viewed as a conservative tool, is preserved.
The first consideration is the near certain approval of Owens, Pryor and Rodgers. These three were were the nominations that caused the most upset with the extreme left. The deal assures that they will be sitting on appellate benches in the very near future. Advantage: Republicans.
Democrats also agreed to stand down from filibustering in all but extraordinary cirmcumstances. The key complaint from conservatives has been that this definition is undefined. Indeed, my own initial thoughts were along this line as well. However, I'm not so sure this is the case. If the Democrats have agreed to stand down on Owens and Co., this effectively sets a bar for what can be considered extraordinary, and in doing so provides the Republicans with substantial leeway in future nominations. The most immediate impact of this standard, is that all the remaining nominees most likely will receive votes - McCain said as much on Fox News this morning. Assuming the nominees have Republican support, they will then be confirmed. This is exactly what enacting the nuclear option was supposed to accomplish. Republicans appear to have achieved it without dropping the big one. Advantage: Republicans.
The nuclear option remains viable as a result of this deal. Again, McCain repeated this on Fox today, and Frist has also reserved the right to return to this option should the Democrats misbehave in their view. My main concern initially was that Republicans gave up this leverage for little or no promise from the Democrats. The fact that they have retained it, while gaining an agreed upon path to confirmation for the nominees is a stunning victory. I remain leery that this will play out as I've described, but for now I'll choose to be optimistic. Advantage: Republicans.
Finally, the deal preserves the filibuster. While I am not a big fan of this tactic, there can be no denying that the filibuster is inherently conservative. Remembering that in the words of the great William F. Buckley that the role of conservatives is to "stand athwart history yelling "Stop!"", allows us to see why. The filibuster is a means of "conserving" the status quo, and slowing change to a pace that is more considered and agreed upon. In recent years it seems that the radicals in government have been the conservatives, and as such viewing the filibuster as inherently conservative, might be counter-intuitive. As one of the conservative radicals, I would argue that our insurgency has been an effort to reign in government, and return to a more traditional role for the federales of low taxes, reduced regulation, and greater personal freedom. In this way, our "radicalism" has been a conservative fight.
Before you complain that W. has done none of the above, I would just like to remind you that on many occasions I've said that our great leader is no conservative.
So, all in all, a decent victory for the Republicans I'd say, but we will have to be vigilant in ensuring that the deal plays out as described. There is a very real possibility, perhaps even a likely one, that this will all break down on the second Supreme Court nomination that W. is likely to make. If so, it will be important for W. to make sure that he is shrewd about those he nominates, and does the necessary ground work with the Republican 7 prior to nomination.