Thursday, May 19, 2005

Short History of Events Leading to "Nuclear Option"

How did the Senate get to the point that Republicans must change the filibuster rule to stop the Democrats from blocking numerous judicial nominees? A brief summary of events:

Democrats in 2002 had controlled the Senate and the Judiciary Committee and had rejected the nomination of Charles W. Pickering, Jr. of Mississippi. The 2002 elections put Republicans back in the majority. In 2003, Bush renominated Pickering for the appellate bench, making Democrats furious. Unable to reject Pickering's nomination on an up-or-down vote, Democrats decided to filibuster Pickering.

Democrats next decided to filibuster the nomination of Miguel Estrada.

When Democrats also decided to filibuster the nomination of Miguel Estrada, Sen. Stevens (R-Alaska) raised the possibility among his Republican colleagues of having the presiding officer rule that the Democrats could not filibuster a judicial nominee. Republican support for Stevens's plan increased when they discovered Democrat staff memos talking of several more filibusters. Sen. Frist (R-Tenn.), the then-new Majority Leader, hesitated to take the step of changing the filibuster rule. In any event, Frist lacked the votes to change the rule. Frist told conservative groups that he would move to change the filibuster rule if Republicans gained 2 seats in the next elections in 2004.

In the 2004 elections, Pres. Bush won re-election, the Republicans gained 4 Senate seats, and Sen. Daschle (D-S.D.), the leader of the Democrats in their efforts to block judicial nominees, lost his bid for re-election in a race focusing on his obstruction tactics. Instead of taking Daschle's defeat as a sign from voters to retreat, the Democrats, now led by Sen. Reid (D-Nev.), decided to continue to filibuster several of Bush's judicial nominees to the appellate courts. Both camps had committed themselves to their positions, leaving little room for compromise.

Read a more complete story. (hat tip to Viking Pundit)

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