The Senate Judiciary Committee may vote today on the appeals court nomination of Charles Pickering. The real story, however, is how the Democrats keep changing the rules of the confirmation game in order to win at any cost.
Appearing on the Feb. 24 edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and Judiciary Committee member, gave the reason du jour for Democrats’ confirmation blockade. Mr. Bush, she said, “did not have a large mandate” in the 2000 election. Most normal people probably thought winning was a mandate. The people can use the next election to judge how a president used that mandate, but it’s a mandate all the same.
Ah, they would say, it was an electoral but not a popular mandate. That’s funny, but President Clinton received just 43 percent of the popular vote in his first election, nearly six points less than Mr. Bush. Yet in 1994, his second year in office, the Senate confirmed a record 101 judges. Based on Mr. Clinton’s “mandate,” seems like Mr. Bush should have, say, about 112 of his judicial nominees confirmed in 2002, his second year in office.
Or try this one. Senate Democrats insisted the confirmation benchmark for Mr. Bush’s first year was 1993, Mr. Clinton’s first year in office. Then they looked at confirmation totals rather than confirmation rates and claimed success by confirming just one more judge last year than in 1993. OK, fine. You’d think they would say the benchmark for this year would be 1994, Mr. Clinton’s second year in office. Oh, no. Now they say we should look instead at 1996, the second year of Republican Senate control under Mr. Clinton. No doubt that’s because the 1996 confirmation total was only 20. Anything to win.
Here’s another switcheroo. In March 1997, Sen. Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat and former Judiciary Committee chairman, said that it was wrong for the Judiciary Committee “not to bring (judicial nominees) to the (Senate) floor” for a final vote. The Constitution, he said, mentions the Senate, not the Judiciary Committee. With Democrats now in charge, Majority Leader Tom Daschle appeared March 3 on FOX News Channel and said that while the full Senate would always vote on Supreme Court nominees, lower-court nominees would be left to the mercy of the Judiciary Committee.
By the way, for all the squawking about how the Republican Senate treated Mr. Clinton’s nominees, Republicans never voted down a Clinton nominee in the Judiciary Committee. Never. In fact, no Democrat nominee has been defeated in the Judiciary Committee in more than 20 years.
“Meet the Press” host Tim Russert played the game himself. Obviously reading from some left-wing propaganda fax, he claimed that “from ’95 to 2000, 35 percent of Clinton’s appointments to the court of appeals were blocked.” Sen. Feinstein chimed in: “And then 65 percent the next year.” Those are at least the third and fourth versions of that false claim floating around out there. In June 2001, Mr. Daschle said the figure was “over 45 percent” and Democratic Whip Sen. Harry Reid claimed it was 55 percent.
Sen. Feinstein’s little outburst made no sense, since “the next year” was 2001, when Mr. Bush and not Mr. Clinton was president. Maybe it was just a little irrational exuberance. But all these claims are false anyway. Democrats just want the number to be as high as possible, so they talk of “nominations” rather than “nominees” that were not approved. Individuals can be nominated over and over, but confirmed only once. Mr. Clinton re-nominated many individuals and nearly all of them were eventually confirmed.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the Republican Senate failed to vote on about 25 percent of Mr. Clinton’s appeals court nominees. Here’s a comparison for you: 47 of the 52 Bush nominees languishing in the Democrat Senate have not even had a hearing, let alone a vote. That’s not 35 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent, or 65 percent. That’s 90 percent.
One final shifting goalpost to show you how badly the far-left wants to win. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy now says he will process only “consensus” nominees, meaning at least those with the support of both home-state senators. On its newly re-designed website, the Judiciary Committee makes special note of nominees “without consent of home-state senators.”
Even using the committee’s numbers, 35 nominees have support of both home-state senators. Yet none has had a hearing. Mr. Leahy has refused to consider eight of the first 11 nominations Mr. Bush made on May 9, 2001. Every one has the support of both home-state senators.
Let me set the rules, and I’ll win the game. In the Senate, Democrats not only set the rules, they constantly change the rules to keep President Bush from balancing the judiciary.