With the successful confirmation of William Pryor, along with David McKeague and Richard Griffin, brings to FIVE the number of judges who were previously blocked who have been confirmed since the infamous “Gang of 14” made their blood-pact to avoid the “nuclear option”.
Pryor was the last of three guaranteed votes. McKeague and Griffin were not in the written deal, and are the first judges to be confirmed under the new “spirit of cooperation” which supposedly accompanied the deal.
The democrats, who when the deal was first announced, considered themselves victorious, are now having second thoughts. Three of the judges they labeled as the most extreme of the nominations are now sitting on the bench. They have promised that the feud over judges that started with Bush I and extended through Clinton to Bush II is now over – so they shouldn’t go back and complain any more about how unfair it was for their nominees when the Republicans had a majority and acted like a majority. Of course the democrats ARE still talking about it.
In exchange, they got a postponement of the nuclear option, allowing them to keep the judicial filibuster so long as they don’t use it. At least two Republicans who were part of the deal have explained that, with the filibuster not used on these three judges, it sets the bar for what is “extraordinary”. Since the Democrats called two of these three (Brown and Pryor) the most extreme justices to ever appear before the Senate, it is hard to imagine there will be another justice nominate who would be MORE extreme. Further, since Brown (by the deal) didn’t meet the standard of “extraordinary circumstance”, should Bush later nominate her for the Supreme Court it will be hard for the Democrats to filibuster. The Republicans in the deal have promised that, if THEY don’t think a judge is “extraordinarily bad”, and the democrats filibuster, they will consider the deal broken and vote for the ‘nuclear option’.
So the Democrats are wondering what they got. The conservatives are still peeved, because they see the filibuster as a sword of Damocles hanging over the inevitable conservative Supreme Court nominee, and believe that they won’t get enough Republicans to break a filibuster then, so we needed to break it now. They may be right, although it isn’t clear that the Republicans had enough votes to break it now.
The Minnesota Star-Tribune has adopted a Democrat talking point (no surprise here), announcing Pryor’s appointment thusly:
The Senate voted 53 to 45 to confirm Pryor for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The Democrats have taken to reminding people again and again that a judge gets a “lifetime appointment”. I did some study of the turnover rate of judges, compared to Senators, and while the information available to me was too sketchy to be certain, it appears that the percentage of judges that retires each year compares with that of the Senators. In other words, in many states Senators serve longer than judges.