The explicit language of the agreement reached tonight by a group of senators rejects the nuclear option, preserves the filibuster and ensures that both political parties will have a say in who is appointed to our highest courts. The agreement embodies the very principle of consultation and consensus that the filibuster encourages. This is good news for the American people. Saving the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role, and the checks and balances that protect judicial independence, is especially important with multiple vacancies expected on the Supreme Court. The agreement assures that the filibuster will be available, as it has been throughout our history, if the President ignores the spirit of this agreement and nominates an ideologue to the Supreme Court.
The unprincipled nuclear option has been averted. This is a major defeat for the radical right. Senators from both parties have rejected demands by the White House, radical right groups, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that the filibuster be eliminated on nominees. It is a rejection of White House demands for virtually unlimited power to undermine the independence of the courts.
Nonetheless, we cannot endorse every aspect of the deal that was announced today. We are deeply concerned that it could lead to confirmation of appeals court judges who would undermine Americans’ rights and freedoms. We will urge Senators to vote against confirmation of nominees who have not demonstrated a commitment to upholding individual liberties and the legal and social justice accomplishments of the past 70 years.
The bipartisan rejection of the nuclear option provides President Bush with a clear path out of the divisive impasse that has been caused by his obstinate refusal to engage in bipartisan consultation and compromise on judicial nominations.
It is time for President Bush to recognize what the senators who negotiated this agreement know – that the Senate is the President’s constitutional partner in appointing federal judges. It is time for the White House to abandon its confrontational strategy on judges, and to work with senators from both parties to find some consensus nominees, especially in the case of expected Supreme Court vacancies.