Detente in the Senate?
Looks like Billy Frist got outflanked.
Harry Reid went to the Senate floor today and offered to bring the nomination of judicial nominee Thomas Griffith to a floor vote.
"Let's take a step away from the precipice," Reid said. "Let's try cooperation, rather than confrontation, which seems to be the hallmark of what we've been doing here lately."
Democrats are hoping Reid's offer will help convince a number of undecided Republicans that they can be reasonable and that the GOP should not support Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's call to ban judicial filibusters.
"We know the difference between opposing nominees and blocking nominees. We will oppose bad nominees, but we will only block unacceptable nominees," Reid said.
At the same time, there is a growing insurrection from within:
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is discussing a possible agreement to avert a showdown over President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, said Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.
"Attempts are under way'' to try to avert a showdown, Collins said in an interview. "I have had discussions with colleagues in the Senate about the possibility of that. I haven't signed off on anything.''
Collins didn't discuss the details of the discussions. Roll Call, a publication about Congress that is distributed on Capitol Hill and electronically, reported that six Republicans offered to oppose the rule change to eliminate judicial filibusters if Democrats agreed to allow votes on four of the seven disputed judges.
Six senators is the key number there. With 6 on either side agreeing to these rules, the Republicans would not win a majority vote, and the Democrats would be unable to filibuster. It's amusing to see that the former Majority Leader is leading this charge behind the scenes:
Roll Call reported that Mississippi Republican Senator Trent Lott, a former party leader who was succeeded by Frist in 2003, and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson were close to brokering the agreement among six Republicans and six Democrats.
"Senator Lott has not agreed to this deal reported today,'' Lott spokeswoman Susan Irby said in a statement.
"For some time now'' Lott and Nelson "have been trying to see if there is common ground that could forge a resolution,'' her statement said.
Lott almost definitely wants his job back, and embarrassing the current Majority Leader is a tactic to make that happen.
Frist comes out of this utterly defeated. He was unable to get what he wanted for his Christian Opportunist friends like Dr. Dobson and the Family Research Council. Because they're absolutists, they'll blame Frist. And he'll leave the Senate in 2006 without a prayer of getting the Republican nomination. If he can't handle something so easy as getting a majority vote when he has 55 of the 100 members of the Senate on his side, forget it.
The Democrats win a victory for the Constitution and the restoration of Constitutional principles. Their only tangible giveaway consists of a few circuit court judges. The others will have to go away, and the Supreme Court fight will continue unaltered. There is an unenforceable promise of not filibustering unless there are "extreme circumstances." That's very malleable. There are enough Americans on the Democrats' side of the equation (that is, in favor of the filibuster as a genuine part of the Constitutional process) to use this when necessary.
We win, a few judges go through, Bush loses, Frist loses big. I'll take that.