Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democrats Turn Judicial Confirmation into Partisan Battle

Just a few months ago, the Senate confirmed Justice John Roberts 78-22. All 22 votes against confirmation came from Democrats, who split evenly (22-22) in the vote. Three Democrats on the Judiciary Committee supported Roberts. The 3 Democrats were Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Herb Kohl also of Wisconsin, and Pat Leahy of Vermont.

The full Senate begins debate today on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. Alito was approved by the Judiciary Committee 10-8. All the Democrats on the committee opposed Alito. Only one Senate Democrat (Ben Nelson of Nebraska) has publicly announced support for Alito. Few Democrats are expected to vote to confirm Alito.

Pres. Bill Clinton, a Democrat, named 2 nominees to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. They were confirmed on votes of 96-3 and 87-9 respectively. Only a few Republicans opposed Clinton's nominees, both of whom were and are very liberal.

Today, only a few Democrats are willing to support Alito, a nominee who is at least as well qualified as Clinton's nominees were. What changed?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said things are different from when the Senate considered Breyer and Ginsburg, who were confirmed 87-9 and 96-3 respectively. "There was not the polarization within America that is there today, and not the defined move to take this court in a singular direction," she said.

Betsy's Page responds to Feinstein:

Gimme a break! As if Clinton wasn't trying to move the court in "a singular direction." Of course he was, but Feinstein just liked that direction so she didn't mind. And tell me that America wasn't polarized during the Clinton presidency. Does she have a total blank about the those years? And is her argument that, if the country is polarized politicially, the president can't nominate someone of his or her own ideology? Would she make those same arguments if Hillary were president? She better watch out. It's quite possible that a Democrat could be elected president and face a Senate that still has a majority of Republicans. Does she expect the GOP to suddenly become saints and roll over for the Democrats after their display on the Alito nomination? More disappointing things have happened with the GOP, but she shouldn't count on it.

Betsy is right. Nothing has changed.

Democrats have turned judicial appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, into partisan political struggles. This has happened mostly because the courts have become a battleground to decide political issues (for example, abortion and gay marriage) without voter input. Democrats therefore treat the selection of judges as they would the election of a legislator, and several powerful liberal interest groups wield great influence in the judicial confirmation process. The predictable result is mostly party line votes on confirmation of judges.

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