May 01, 2005

Reid Makes A Deal

David Brooks reports that the deal Harry Reid offered Bill Frist on judges—in which the Democrats would help confirm the least offensive GOP nominees on hold, and Frist would abandon the nuclear option—also had a hidden component:
I've been reliably informed that Reid also vowed to prevent a filibuster on the next Supreme Court nominee. Reid said that if liberals tried to filibuster President Bush's pick, he'd come up with five or six Democratic votes to help Republicans close off debate. In other words, barring a scandal or some other exceptional circumstance, Reid would enable Bush's nominee to get a vote and probably be confirmed.
Well, I can see why Reid would make that deal. Odds are the next Supreme Court justice to go will be the ailing Rehnquist, in which case Democrats will probably decide that replacing a conservative with a conservative is no big deal, and wouldn't have filibustered anyway. Now I think this is a wrong way to approach it; Rehnquist has been a voice of moderation on the Court, and replacing him with a Clarence Thomas clone would push the Court in new and not-too-wonderful directions. Nevertheless, just as the Democrats didn't oppose Scalia to replace Warren Burger in 1986—figuring they should save their fire to oppose the Rehnquist promotion to Chief Justice—they'll probably give Bush latitude to replace Rehnquist with whatever wingnut the president chooses. The upside for Democrats is that they'd look reasonable here, and could seize the high ground for when it came time to replace the more liberal John Paul Stevens.

But here's what I don't get. If this deal was in fact offered, and Brooks thought it was so great, then why did he blow Reid's cover? Sure, Frist rejected the deal, but who knows, after a few weeks of political thrashing, he might come crawling back to Reid and try to swing a compromise like this. Probably not, since he's got to satisfy the Dobson crowd, but who knows? But now liberal interest groups are almost sure to oppose Reid if he offers to get Bush's first Supreme Court nominee confirmed. So the whole thing has been scuttled. Well, perhaps Brooks was just full of shit. Wouldn't be the first time.
-- Brad Plumer 3:05 PM || ||