Photo of the day

Latest composite Saturn image from Cassini.  Pure awesomeness:

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI

Saturn is surrounded by planets and moons in a mosaic assembled from images captured by NASA’s Cassini probe on July 19.

The point of judicial nominees is that they are “ideological”

So, the GOP in the Senate has successfully filibustered President Obama’s nominee to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  Why?  Because she’s a liberal.  As if Obama should be nominating conservatives?  Chait calls this out for the absurdity it is:

The importance of the struggle can be gleaned through this remarkable quotefrom Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley is defending a blanket filibuster on any nominee to the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. His reasoning is remarkable:

 The court is currently comprised of four active judges appointed by Republican presidents and four active judges appointed by Democrat presidents. There is no reason to upset the current makeup of the court, particularly when the reason for doing so appears to be ideologically driven.

The remarkable thing about this passage is not that it’s dishonest, but that every word of it is true. The D.C. Circuit is currently balanced. If Obama appoints judges to fill the three vacancies, Democratic-appointed judges will enjoy a numerical advantage. What’s more, Obama’s motivation for filling those vacancies is ideological. He agrees with the judicial philosophy of left-of-center jurists, not the philosophy of conservative ones.

Of course, every single judicial appointment [emphasis in original] is intended to alter the ideological balance of that court. Grassley is, therefore, asserting a blanket right to blockade judicial nominees. His principle could be extended to prevent Obama, or any president, from filling any judicial vacancy at all.

The Post article goes to great pains to insist that, of course, both sides are equally at fault.  And while Democrats did, in fact, filibuster truly extreme nominees under Bush, this time really is different:

One could argue that Senate Democrats ceded far too much in agreeing to allow the appointment of such extreme jurists [in the 2005 deal to avoid the “nuclear option”], and that the Senate should have more leeway to force presidents to appoint moderates. But it was always understood that the president could appoint someone from his party’s judicial team. Neither party ever contemplated anything resembling the full-scale blockade Senate Republicans are imposing upon the D.C. Circuit…

But the implications of the struggle extend well beyond even this court. The loose architecture of the constitution turns out to leave wide gaps where the relative power of the two branches is undefined. The debt-ceiling showdown was one such gap: Does this power to destroy the world economy grant Congress the right to force the president to accept unrequited concession?

Advice and consent is another such gap. The custom has been to allow the president to nominate at least somewhat friendly judges. But mere custom has taken the place of settled law. There’s no formal rule forcing the opposing party to confirm the president’s appointments for anything. There probably ought to be some mechanism preventing the majority from appointing hacks and wild ideologues, but if no such mechanism can be arranged, the system will default to the parties using their formal power to the maximum extent.

Democrats ultimately stared down Republicans on the debt ceiling because they recognized that Republican efforts represented a genuine threat to our way of government.  The stakes really are the same here.  Time to step up again, Democrats.

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