Well, it looks like there'll be no mushroom cloud over D.C. tomorrow. Kos (and a few others) are announcing a backroom deal averting the showdown that was set to unfold tomorrow in the Senate.
I've got to say, I'm surprised. I came online to find out about Reid's televised address, and now with the fallout from the deal, I don't even know if he actually even made the address... I'm not shocked, after all, everyone knew there was a group of moderates from each side going back and forth on this. But I thought that effort was too little, too late.
Before I go further, let me give Harry Reid tremendous props. I'm not sure what role, if any, he had in this compromise, but up until this moment, he completely outplayed Bill Frist in every way imaginable. Based on this deal I don't know what the future has in store for the Dems, the Republicans, or the Courts, but I know one thing -- Bill Frist is done. Put a fucking fork in him as an effective Majority Leader and his White House chances in '08.
There hasn't been a lot of analysis written on this yet, and I don't pretend to know all the particulars, but my immediate reaction is disappointment. Not "the sky is falling", "they sold us out" outrage spewing from the fringes on both sides, but I'm disappointed nonetheless. First, I really was looking forward to the drama. This was going to be exciting no matter what happened, and now this seems completely anti-climactic. But I'm also disappointed because I think we snatched a lesser defeat from the jaws of an uncertain victory.
Let me explain what I mean by that. There is no question Harry Reid was holding a really weak hand. He is outnumbered by ten seats and was depending on not only holding all of the Democrats in line, but peeling off several Republicans to actually win this showdown. Relying on the goodness (or conscience) of Republicans was definitely a risky gambit. The whole reason this compromise ever came about is because the vote was truly too close to call. Senators on both sides were afraid to go on the record voting for or against this thing if they couldn't gauge how it would go down. It has more to do with that than any high-ground bullshit you'll hear from them, don't forget it.
The probelm with this and every compromise floated before it, is that the Dems have to give something up right off the bat, while the Republicans are merely agreeing to the status quo. Sort of. The Republicans agree (for now) not to try and eliminate the filibuster if the Democrats (for now) agree not to use it except in extreme (?) circumstances.
What did it take to reach that agreement? The three worst judges get up or down votes (Brown, Owen, Pryor) now, and Saad and Myers get pseudo-bustered 'til their nominations are dead. That still leaves two other judges not specifically mentioned. Lindsay Graham (can I like this guy or not?) hints that one of the up or down vote judges will "probably" go down, whatever that means... Oh, and it appears that new nominees have to get a once-over from these "moderates" before they'll get fair consideration. Let's see how that goes over...
So it seems like we effectively stopped half of these judges and retained the ability to filibuster a Supreme court nominee. Since the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees is the ultimate prize, we win here. It was never really about these particular judges for the White House. This was all about picking this fight, and provoking the nuclear option vote. They were counting on it, and counting on winning it. That's why the stakes were so high for the religious fundamentalists. It's all about Rehnquist's seat. If they won, they would have set the stage for ramming a true idealogue onto the Supreme Court.
So why am I lukewarm on this? Well, I think we might still have won. If that happened, it would really have split the Republican party, the White House would have tremendous black eye, and the fundamentalist religious right would have been dealt a big blow. Now, we'll never know. Doing that kind of damage was worth the risk.
And if we didn't have the votes to win? I liked Reid's plan for retaliation -- to abandon the Senate comity rules. This was mischaracterized as "the Democrats will shut down the Senate." Not true. Unlike Gingrich, the Democrats wouldn't literally close anything down, they'd just start offering up their own agenda. It is a courtesy that the majority party is allowed to set the agenda, and if the majority is going to toss all tradition and comity out the window, why should we oblige them further? Reid had tremendous legislation lined up and would have forced the Republicans to go on record voting it down. I liked that plan.
As it is now, the DEmocrats will be forced to filibuster someone down the road, for the Appeals Court or the Supreme Court. Bush will make sure of it. And then, the Republicans, Fox and Rush will cry that the Democrats are renegging on their deal, and we are back where we started. Except the worst of these judges will already be comfortably on the bench, and we'll have let the Republicans off the hook—public opinion was with us on this, next time, I don't think we'll be so lucky.
This deal was probably the prudent move. But once in a while I want go for something more than prudent, I want to go for the throat.