No, no, no, no, no to the idea moving around some Senate GOP circles of “restoring” the judicial filibuster.
First, the GOP senators have to understand that this is not simply an internal matter, a question of the “club’s” agreed-upon rules. It is a issue of incredible and obvious importance to all Americans, not just 100 senators, and understood to be such by millions of grassroots voters, and thousands of contributors.
Those activists and those donors know a few things.
They know that the Democrats screwed George W. Bush’s nominees from the time of his election throughout his tenure. The various games played by Vermont’s Patrick Leahy and others are remembered in detail, as are the names of the very qualified nominees like Miguel Estrada who were victims of committee blockades and floor filibusters.
They know as well that the GOP threatened a “nuclear option” in 2005 but that a bad deal by the Gang of Eight “saved” the judicial filibuster — at the cost of a few good nominees.
Finally, they know that, having ranted and screamed about the horrors of the nuclear option in 2005, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues detonated it in 2014 and, having blown up the filibuster, packed the D.C. circuit among others with lefty judges after smashing the rule of 60.
Now comes the new Senate GOP majority and already some Republicans are talking about restoring the filibuster for the “good of the institution,” and because the GOP only has 54 votes.
Such a move will telegraph an incredible institutional weakness, a giant “kick me” sign pasted on the collective behind of the Party of Lincoln.
It will also foreclose what ought to be a two-year “leveling-out” period under a GOP president in 2017 and 2018 when only 51 senators are needed to fill circuit court vacancies. To balance the hard-Left appointees of the ’13-’14 session, it will take at least two years of appointing conservative originalists to the federal bench. Most of those will need to be confirmed with 51, not 60 votes. Restoring the filibuster now shuts the door on them in 2017.
Most important, though, is the absolute need to rebrand the congressional GOP as a strategic-thinking, combatively-inclined party that genuinely intends to defend the Constitution. That defense requires not only that Obama judicial nominees at all levels — from the Supreme Court to the district courts — be blockaded, it means thinking ahead two years and planning on what to do when the White House is won.
Some are afraid that two Republicans will defect from Judiciary over the next two years, or four on the floor if a nomination proceeds that far. Others fear losing the Senate in 2016, but that makes no sense as Dems have ready shown they will break precedent and return to 51 vote confirmations.
No, the only rational thing to do is keep the rule at 51, block Obama’s picks and plan on loading up the courts with 51 vote nominees after 2016.
And here’s the rub: The way to lose the Senate in 2016 is to start backpedaling right now. If you want to keep the majority and protect your colleagues, GOP senators, earn it. Fight for them and fight for conservative judges now by keeping the nomination process at 51 and refusing the president’s nominees that magic number.
Again, activists and donors are watching. Don’t take the air out of their tires by surrendering in week one and playing by rules the Democrats have contempt for.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.