Robert Novak notes that the GOP leadership in the Senate may finally get serious about carrying out their Constitutional responsibility of confirming judges appointed by the president.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, frustrated by the audacious campaign of Democrats blocking judicial confirmations, begins a counteroffensive this week. He will start by returning to one of President Bush’s nominees generally given up for dead. The effort will accelerate throughout this congressional session into mid-November, with one roll-call vote after another.

None of this may confirm any of the federal appellate court nominees marked for defeat by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Democratic grandmaster, because they are deemed too conservative. This effort is intended to ”refocus” (the word used by GOP strategists) on the unprecedented filibuster campaign to prevent a sitting president from selecting his own judiciary. The refocused struggle would peak early in the 2004 election year with a frontal assault on filibuster rules. Although no justice seems ready to leave the Supreme Court of his own volition this year, control of the highest court is ultimately at stake.

The GOP base, needed intact to re-elect George W. Bush, is angry — angry with Kennedy’s Democrats for blocking the judges, angry with Frist’s Republicans for not trying harder. That could cost Bush’s re-election if nothing is done.

Indeed. There’s not much point in voting for a Republican president and congress if they’re too passive to actually govern when in power. Both President Bush and the so-far ineffective Majority Leader have been less than aggressive on this issue. At very least, Bush should have used his recess appointment power to install every one of the judges who have yet to receive an up-or-down vote.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ron says:

    I think there is more that the Senate and the Administration should be doing to get the nominees through, but I remember how torqued I got over Clinton’s recess appointments, and I don’t like the perpetuation of this method.

  2. James Joyner says:


    I agree generally but think this is different. In Clinton’s case, IIRC, he appointed people who had been voted down. Using the power to circumvent a Constitutionally-dubious fillibuster is a different animal, I think.

  3. JC says:

    What a joke. We’ll see how the tune changes when there’s a democrat doing the appointing.

  4. Ron says:

    What? Our reasons for shortcutting the system are better than their reasons for shortcutting the system? It’s still shortcutting the system.

    The article points out several things that can be done: publicity*, rule changes, etc. And I like the idea that the next time we are fighting a Dem president’s nominees we can point to our lack of recess appointments.

    * I’m biased, so I don’t know how well this will play to the middle, but it seems to me that an all out publicity campaign has got to make the Dems look bad.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I’ve always held that presidents have a near-absolute right to have their qualified nominees confirmed. The Senate’s role should merely be to ensure that unqualified nominees–cronies with inadequate experience, those with very shady moral credentials, and the like–aren’t confirmed. Aside from Lani Guineer, who was well outside the boundaries of even the Democratic party, I don’t recall opposing any Clinton nominee. And, even there, I thought there should have been a floor vote minus a filibuster.

  6. Kevin Drum says:

    Tell you what: if Orrin Hatch is willing to go back to the old blue slip rule, maybe the Dems will give up on filibustering.


  7. James Joyner says:

    The blue slip was never intended to apply to the appelate courts. Giving a single Senator–let alone one from the opposition party–an absolute veto for any judge for an entire multi-state circuit is just nuts.

  8. JC says:

    Let me see. The current bit o’ crap that’s trying to be pushed can’t even get her constitutional story straight and got the lowest possible rating from the bar – 50% said she was unqualified, 50% said she was qualified.

    Just perfect.

    And quite frankly, doggone good evidence that this isn’t about the constitution, it’s about ideology.

  9. James Joyner says:


    I’m not sure of the qualifications of the latest nominee. If she’s deemed unqualified by a majority of the Senate, they should vote her down. But they should vote.

  10. JC says:

    I listened to some of Janice Brown’s questioning. It was simply pathetic. Here’s an interesting report

    In addition, the body that has been charged for over fifty years with rating nominees to the federal courts also found Brown lacking. A substantial minority of the American Bar Association Federal Judiciary Committee – six or seven of the fifteen members – found her not qualified for a seat on the D.C. Circuit. No member of the ABA Committee rated her well qualified, despite her six years on California’s highest court. The ratings by these two bodies presumably reflect their serious concerns with Justice Brown’s ability to bring to the bench an impartiality and fealty to law and precedent that should be absolute prerequisites for anyone seeking a lifetime appointment to the federal

    Gee, wonder why she even came up for nomination.

  11. Paul says:


    (why do I play with trolls?)

    Your hypocrisy is showing. Miguel Estrada is more than qualified but the Democrats did not want a hispanic on the court.

    Why is it any time a black person achieves, Democrats shoot them down? This is just a bunch of racist Democrats who want to keep black people down.

    The senate democrats shoot look in Byrd’s closet and see if he has any spare sheets.


  12. Rick DeMent says:

    No but given the slim margin of the presidential vote, and the slim margin in the senate and the not all that overwhelming majority in the House wouldn’t you think judges that are a bit more moderate are in order? If the vote was a landslide you might have an argument, at it stands the mood of the American people hardly suggest far right ideologs.

  13. James Joyner says:


    But, again, given that margin, it’s not that hard for the Democrats to build a coalition to simply defeat judges that are truly “extreme.” There are several very liberal Republican senators–just peel off Olympia Snowe or Arlen Specter or Lincoln Chaffee.

  14. Paul says:


    Given the fact that 12 years ago the Democrats held both houses of congress, the Oval Office and the majority of statehouse and now the Republicans hold them all, don’t you think the Democrats should give more power to Republicans? Obviously that is what the voters want.



  15. Rick DeMent says:


    I seem to recall a number of Clinton’ s more liberal Judges defeated. And that is a good thing. So why is it that When Bush has his more Conservative judges defeated everyone is saying the sky is falling.

    I don’t want the fringes occupying the nations benches. And neither should you.

  16. James Joyner says:


    They’re not being defeated–they’re being filibustered. That strikes me as a rather significant difference.

  17. Paul says:

    (what James said)

    And you missed my point. Dems keep whining about the close elections and saying the voters want Republicans to share power with Dems.


    The obvious conclusion is that you guys are getting run out of town and therefor should turn over power faster.

    If you don’t see how I rendered your previous argument patently silly, then I can’t help you.