• 73°

Nuclear option is too risky; seek compromise on judges

Be careful what you wish for.

It’s an often-heard adage that Senate Republicans would bewell-advised to remember as they move dangerously closer totriggering the so-called “nuclear option” to force a vote onPresident Bush’s stalled judicial nominees.

The nominees to federal appeals court have been blocked – somesince early in Bush’s first term – by the filibuster tactics of theSenate’s Democratic minority.

Never before have presidential nominees to the bench beenfilibustered en masse, and it is not a practice we condone. Wewould, without question, prefer to see an up-or-down vote on eachnominee on the Senate floor once OK’d by the Senate JudiciaryCommittee.

The Democrats are playing politics – plain and simple – andusing any means they can to keep conservative nominees off thefederal appeals courts.

Having said that, however, it would be ill-advised for theRepublicans to scrap the long-standing rules that govern the UnitedStates Senate.

First, the Senate has a long tradition as a deliberative body,moving more slowly and often with more debate than the House ofRepresentatives, and its rules ensure that. For better or worse,Senate rules require 60 votes to cut off debate and vote on amatter. Without the needed 60 votes, Republican leaders (as well asDemocrats) should be open to the idea of a compromise.

To this point, the leadership of each side has drawn a line inthe sand and refused to budge. Using the nuclear option to force ashowdown does nothing to further compromise and could, in fact,further polarize the political parties and see any real progress onCapitol Hill grind to a screeching halt.

Furthermore, Republicans must be concerned with setting aprecedent they almost surely would come to regret in time, as theywill not always be the majority party in the Senate.

When Democrats again control the White House and the Senate (aseventually they will) and left-leaning jurists are nominated to thefederal bench, Republicans will have little to say – and even lessthey can do – to prevent their confirmation.

The Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate must step back fromthe brink and let cooler heads prevail. The likely fallout fromexercising the nuclear option just isn’t worth the possible futurepain.