Having had more time to think through and read over the deal, I'm still pretty happy with it. But I do want to go over a few things in detail. The really crucial portion is the "future" section, where each senator is given personal discretion to decide what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances". One read of that makes filibusters easy, it's up to the Democrat. Another read means Republicans can attack it, it's up to them. But here's the thing: there's no trap door in it, no clause that says a filibuster under "ordinary circumstances" will trigger another vote. More important, that clause is followed by:
"In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII."
On the face of it, that's the battle right there, it looks like the filibuster is preserved. As Matt points out, however, there are certainly tortured readings that could allow Republicans to slip out of it. Indeed, Mike DeWine has already taken such a read:
[I]f an individual senator believes in the future that a filibuster is taking place under something that’s not extraordinary circumstances, we of course reserve the right to do what we could have done tomorrow which is to cast a yes vote for the constitutional option.
If this agreement is binding in any way, no, he couldn't. But in reality, he retains a free hand. Even so, this is still a win. I'm quite convinced we would've lost the fallout. I know that's heresy and Super Reid would've used his extrahuman intelligence and laser eyes to lead us to victory, but the basic argument that we'd shut down the Senate because the Republicans were forcing us to vote on six appellate judges...I just can't see that pulling through on the nightly news.
SInce the fight has, for the foreseeable future, been forestalled, the next real eruption is likely to be over the Supreme Court. And that's exactly what the right didn't want. Anyone bad enough for us to filibuster is going to have one hell of a nasty record. And since the public is fully aware that Supreme Court appointments are long-term and highly powerful, a filibuster to get the guy's record out would, unlike the assault on appellate judges, make perfect sense. Bush didn't want that, so he had the Senate provoke a showdown now. But as now has become later, we've won this round because Bush knows we can make an enormous media deal of his Supreme Court nominee's opinions. And hey, no one wants a Bork on their record.
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