Good News

Filibuster blocks Estrada nomination:

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans lost a seventh filibuster vote Wednesday in their fight to make Miguel Estrada the first Hispanic on the federal appeals court in the nation’s capital. Democrats appeared to be setting up more filibusters on President Bush’s judicial nominees.

But read it closely and witness your “liberal media” in action (it’s an AP story). First, were the Republicans really fighting to “make Miguel Estrada the first Hispanic on the federal appeals court?” More accurate would be this characterization: “Estrada is the first Hispanic Appellate Court Nominee Republicans have fought for”, followed by an explanation of the political views, insofar as they are publicly known, of Estrada. And the story says that Democrats are setting up more filibusters, but fails to mention the number of judges confirmed (well over 100) or compare the rate of confirmation to historical rates.

The AP story does give a consice update on the status of the various controversial (i.e., extreme-right) nominees:

Republicans, who also lost a filibuster vote Tuesday for Texas judge Priscilla Owen, will try Thursday and Friday to win confirmation for Alabama Attorney General William Pryor and California judge Carolyn Kuhl. But both nominees are expected to be filibustered, as is Mississippi judge Charles Pickering when he comes before the Senate again.

Henry Saad of Michigan is also likely to be filibustered, this time on procedural grounds: the Senate has long required both Senators from a nominee’s home state to approve a nominee (the “blue slip”); neither Michigan Senator (Levin and Stabenow) has given a Blue Slip for Saad (here’s a nice history of the blue slips; also, here). During the Clinton Years, the Blue Slip policy was strictly enforced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin “Piracy Virus Hatch. Back then, Hatch went so far as to have this printed on the blue slips: “[n]o further proceedings on this nominee will be scheduled until both blue slips have been returned by the nominee’s home state senators.” They now read “Please complete the attached blue slip form and return it as soon as possible to the Committee office”–a change made in January 2001.

I can’t find a link right now, but I recall that shortly after Bush’s inauguration, Hatch said one slip would do. Now the Saad nomination is proceeding with none (Kuhl apparently had one, but blue slips are anonymous so it’s unknown whether it was from Boxer or Feinstein). Patrick Leahy, Senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has a great statement on the blue slips and their contrasting use under Clinton (and before) vs. under Bush. There’s a lot more, but here’s an excerpt:

While it is true that various Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee have used the blue-slip in different ways, some to maintain unfairness, and others to attempt to remedy it, it is also true that each of those Chairmen was consistent in his application of his own policy — that is, until now. Today is the first time that this Chairman will ever have convened a hearing for a judicial nominee who did not have two positive blue slips returned to the Committee.

Republicans are up in arms about the Democrats using procedural measures like blue slips and filibusters to block complete and total Republican hegemony, but such measures have a long and storied tradition. While they’ve been misused (both were used by southern Senators to block Civil Rights legislation and the appointment of minority judges to the federal courts), they are part of the system of checks and balances. Before Republicans go to far, I must remind them of Grover Norquist’s Hillary Test:

“Someday Hillary Clinton’s going to be attorney general and I hope conservatives keep that in mind.”