Friday, April 15, 2005

Brilliant Bill

Looks like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is going to try to end the filibuster. This is probably the stupidest move I've ever seen a politician make.

Frist blames Democrats' obstruction of Bush's judicial nominees. But this Senate hasn't been any more obstructionist than any other Senate - indeed, Bush has got most of his appointments approved. It's only the far-right ones that run into trouble - the ones Bush shouldn't be appointing anyway. Bush, if he had the slightest respect for the judicial system, would be appointing moderates that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on.

So Bush has put Frist in a bit of a bind. He can't let the nominees die, since he'd be drawing the ire of an extremely loyalist administration (not to mention the ire of the Christian right that dominates Tennessee Republican politics). So he has to pound them through. Which leaves him with the "nuclear option" to end the filibuster.

But what a way to do it. Thanks to the savvy leadership of Harry Reid, the Democrats have all but guaranteed a Senate shutdown should Frist drop his "nuclear" bomb. So Frist, essentially, has decided to cut off his nose to spite his face.

Frist could have averted this problem earlier. First, he could have impressed upon this administration the importance of appointing moderates. Second, he could have dealt some of Bush's agenda for a judicial nominee here and there - drop the bankruptcy bill for Terrence Boyle, etc.

Should Frist go nuclear, it will lead to one of two things. The Dems already have 46 votes (McCain has voiced his opposition), and it's hard to imagine Snowe, Collins, or Chafee going along with Frist on this one. That makes 49. Should Specter defect, that's 50. One more defection and Frist has a lot of egg on his face. Should Frist succeed, however, he's stopped the Senate from getting anything done - a Pyrrhic victory that shows his weakness as a leader. Either way, look for yet another PR disaster for the Republicans.


Anonymous said...

My one concern...the Democrats looking like the Republicans did when the gov't shut down in the mid-1990s. That would be bad.

- Ben

Mike said...

The Dems don't exactly have a Gingrich, Ben, so I'm not sure they would look quite so bad.

What happened to Bill Frist? As recently as 2 years ago, I actually respected him, about as much respect as I could have for a social conservative. Then he spoke out in favor of the marriage amendment, and since then he has gone first downhill, then into a freefall. I guess you learn a lot of things in med school, exclusive of common sense. And in light of the Terri Schiavo fiasco and the whole gay rights thing, apparently not a lot about human dignity either. Oh well.