Miers and “Every Nominee Deserves a Vote”
David Broder makes a rather odd argument that I have seen echoed elsewhere since Harriet Miers withdrew from consideration for the Supreme Court.
President Pushover (WaPo, A26)
[Judge Samuel Alito’S] record entitles him to the serious consideration and questioning he will undoubtedly receive from the Judiciary Committee. But after Bush acquiesced in the conservative movement’s uproar denying Miers her chance for an up-or-down Senate vote, or even a hearing in that committee, there is no plausible way the White House can insist that every major judicial nominee deserves such a vote.
That was the rationale behind the threatened “nuclear option” in the Senate, the mid-session rule change that would have banned judicial filibusters. If the mass of Democrats and a few Republicans who may be dismayed by Alito’s stands on abortion and other issues can muster the 41 votes needed to sustain a filibuster under current rules, they now have precedent for using their power.
The conservative screamers who shot down Miers can argue that they were fighting only for a “qualified” nominee, though it is plain that many of them wanted more — a guarantee that Miers would do their bidding and overrule Roe v. Wade . But whatever the rationale, the fact is that they short-circuited the confirmation process by raising hell with Bush. Certainly there can be no greater sin in a sizable bloc of sitting senators using long-standing Senate rules to stymie a nomination than a cabal of outsiders — a lynching squad of right-wing journalists, self-sanctified religious and moral organizations, and other frustrated power-brokers — rolling over the president they all ostensibly support.
Well, no. Broder’s main argument–that President Bush is looking weak at the moment–has its merits. But the idea that the withdrawal of the Miers nomination renders the “up-or-down vote” argument hypocritical is nonsense.
The Republicans have argued that the Senate owes presidential nominees the courtesy of a vote, since the Constitution clearly puts the Senate the a reactive position of offering advice and consent. Specifically, it is argued that a minority of Senators should not be allowed to derail a nominee who has the votes to be confirmed. Nothing in that argument applies to the right of a president to withdraw a nominee who is deemed unworthy or to that of a nominee to withdraw rather than be subjected to further ridicule.