|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
A letter signed by all 41 Senate Republicans was sent to the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy yesterday in which the GOP demanded inclusion in, and ultimately veto power over, the confirmation of the president's judicial nominees.
The demand was a sharp turn-around for Republicans, who had for the past eight years been calling for the swift confirmation of then-President George W. Bush's appointees.
The letter is couched in historical language, which notes that "our Democratic colleagues have emphasized [senate involvement in appointments] for several years" and "the principle of senatorial consultation (or senatorial courtesy) is rooted in this special responsibility, and its application dates to the Administration of George Washington." But the GOP's request for veto power of nominees before the judiciary even debates a particular appointment is far from the norm.
The letter gives lip service to themes of bipartisanship, saying they "look forward to working with" the president and that "the judicial appointments process has become needlessly acrimonious." However, what they demand is nothing short of minority control. The letter states that if Republicans "are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states" they will "not support moving forward," presumably threatening a filibuster.
The phrase "senatorial courtesy" may sound better than "threat of filibuster," but as Politico points out, "the letter is an opening salvo in what could be a partisan battle in the Obama years." The public perception of the use of filibusters is perhaps reflected in this language of bipartisanship that insists upon senatorial courtesy "regardless of party affiliation." The letter emphasizes the idea of working together, when the true intent is more threat than peace offering.
The GOP's determination to oppose Obama's judicial appointments became clear a little more than a week after the 44th president was elected. As we reported back in November, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) pledged to get his colleagues onboard an aggressive filibuster campaign against what he termed "radical leftist" nominees he feared would come out of this new White House.
Yet, back in 2005, Kyl was firmly on the opposite side of this argument:
"This is strictly about whether or not a minority of senators is going to prevent the president from being able to name and get confirmed judges that he chooses after he's been elected by the American people."
In fact, the recent past offers many instances in which conservatives attempted to shame Democrats into abandoning filibuster rights in judicial appointments. The "senatorial consultation" referred to in the letter, also known as the "advice and consent" clause in the Constitution, was argued by supporters of Bush to mean that the Senate's role was to confirm or deny appointees, not offer advice. For a comprehensive run-down on the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers and activists regarding this argument, see this blog entry at Right Wing Watch