Friday, July 02, 2004

Democratic senators should not confirm Bush's extreme judicial nominees

Why you’re right:

1. The Senate is instructed by the Constitution to provide “advice and consent.” This clause, intended as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to nominate judges and those who wanted the Executive to do so, creates a meaningful role for the Senate in the process. If it is unacceptable for the Senate to block any nominees, then the clause is emptied of meaning. Conservatives in particular claim to be guided by the doctrine of strict construction, which stresses the literal meaning of each word in the Constitution, unless, of course, those words are “advice and consent.” (Slate)

2. Some of these nominees are FAR out of the mainstream. Although Bush supporters spin this as a battle about abortion, the issues at stake are much broader than just reproductive rights. Charles W. Pickering, who received a recess appointment after his nomination was successfully blocked, was reversed no less than a dozen times by the circuit court on opinions that violate “well-settled principles of law,” many in the areas of civil and constitutional rights. In law school, he wrote an article explaining how Mississippi could strengthen its ban on interracial marriage. James Leon Holmes, whose district court nomination is no longer being blocked, has written, “The wife is to subordinate herself to her husband.” (PFAW , The New Yorker)

3. Republicans thought blocking nominees was just fine under Clinton. Over the course of President Clinton’s two terms, the Senate blocked 63 judicial nominees, or 20% of all nominees. In comparison, just 3 Bush nominees, 2.3% of the total, have met this completely constitutional fate. (Sen. Leahy’s Office)

Why they’re wrong:

Republicans holler bloody murder on this issue, going so far as to call Democrats anti-Catholic for blocking the nomination of anti-choice Catholic William S. Pryor. But providing substantive advice and consent was perfectly acceptable to them when Clinton’s nominees were before the Senate. One of the strengths of our government is that we have a structurally independent legislature that doesn’t act merely as a rubber-stamp for the executive. It would be dangerous to our democracy if the slim Republican majority in the Senate were allowed to erase that independence in terms of judicial nominees.

A better idea:

No matter which party controls the White House, the President should appoint judges based on proven juridical expertise, not commitment to an ideological agenda.