Wednesday, January 12, 2005

All About Orrin

Orrin Hatch, former Senate Judiciary committee chair, has a lengthy editorial in the National Review today arguing for a parliamentary rules change to end our current "political and constitutional crisis that undermines democracy, the judiciary, the Senate, and the Constitution."

He is referring here to the Senate Democrats' tactic of filibustering those judicial nominees they most object to. Like a lot of other prominent Republicans, Hatch is up in arms over the use of this (somewhat) unprecedented measure, calling it a deviation from the Senate's Constitutionally enumerated purpose of providing the President with "advice and consent" on his nominations. What Hatch doesn't tell us is that the Senate has always been red-lighting judicial nominees that enough Senators objected to, blocking their nominations through non-filibuster methods. The recent use of the filibuster is just a different (and if anything, less likely to succeed) means to the same ends.

What makes this editorial especially rich is the fact that it was Orrin Hatch himself who made the use of judicial filibusters inevitable. As the Washington Monthly points out, Hatch's repeated changes to Judiciary committee rules for short-term partisan gain have eliminated the traditional means by which Senators blocked judicial nominations. I'll excerpt the relevant history:

When Democrats were in power and Republicans were in the minority, senatorial courtesy prevailed in judicial nominations. For decades, the rule was this: if both senators from a judge's home state objected to (or "blue slipped") a nominee, he was out. But when Republicans took control of the Senate during the Clinton presidency, these rules no longer looked so good to them:

In 1998, for no special reason, Orrin Hatch decided that only one senator needed to object to a nomination. This made it easier for Republicans to obstruct Bill Clinton's nominees.


In 2001, when one of their own became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take two objections after all. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George Bush's nominees.


In early 2003, Hatch went even further: senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it would still go to the floor for a vote.


A few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with a longtime rule that said at least one member of the minority had to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.

One thing I would like to stress is that the current state of the Senate's judicial proceedings in no way constitutes a crisis. In their own defense, the Senate Democrats cite the very pertinent fact that the Senate has confirmed 88% of Bush's nominations, the same percentage confirmed in Reagan's first four years, and a significant improvement over the 81% confirmed in Clinton's, or the 77% confirmed in H.W. Bush's. The Republican drive to get rid of the filibuster isn't about restoring "the Senate's historical practice" any more than it is about relieving the political crisis that doesn't exist. It's about solidifying one-party control of Congress, destroying Senate traditions and creating political crises in the process. Democrats owe it to themselves to make an issue of this.


At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post was extremely well-written and well-argued. I appreciated the substantial evidence given to support the writer's claims. He does a good service by highlighting this issue and by calling our attention to an editorial in the National Review - an editorial which has passed by, unnoticed, by the average politically aware college student. I am reminded again that it is not enough just to read The New York Times and The Washington Post.

At 12:36 AM, Blogger Smythely said...

Another sanctimonious, disingenuous partisan hack oozing superiority and self-satisfaction, Hatch is one of the most repugnant nation-wreckers of the Grand Ole Pea-brains (and, as we all know, the competition is stiff). When it comes to moral posturing, only Joe Lieberman comes close to the distinguished Senator Hatch.

Considering Hatch's enthusiasm for moving the goal posts of legislative process, and the manner in which he smugly justifies his hypocritical actions by lying through his pearly whites with metaphysical prowess, one can only conclude Utah has just as many voting liars per capita as Texas.

And talk about projection. If Orrin doesn't get a cookie at bedtime, he cries constitutional crisis. Hell, he is a constitutional crisis. Hatch's spirited defense of Clarence Thomas and merciless villification of Anita Hill was quite the spectacle - and all anyone really needs to know about the complete absence of character in this well-coifed dirtbag.

Senator Hatch also looks very waxy on television, leading the Zang Brothers to conclude he's been leading an animated afterlife for well over a decade. We should send Barbara Boxer a wooden stake and a Wal-Mart sledgehammer. She's the only Democratic Senator with the guts to use it.


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