Incredibly, the Judiciary Committee has failed to get the nomination of Peter Keisler to the Senate floor, a screw-up of large and very significant proportions. The Majority Leader had confidently predicted that Keisler would be confirmed to the D.C. Circuit before the Senate departed for the campaigning season. I think the odds are growing that the Senate will be obliged to stay another week to get to the Keisler nomination (and perhaps to the tribunals and NSA bills as well) as Senator Frist will not want to begin a campaign for the presidency having failed to deliver on the commitments made concerning the judiciary.
Drawing attention to the confirmation of District Court Judge Francisco Besosa while leaving town with two vacancies on the court that produced Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Ginsburg is not a recipe for building confidence.
UPDATE: The Senate appears poised to punt away the legislation confirming the president’s authority to order the NSA to conduct surveillance of al Qaeda contacting its operatives in the U.S. The Washington Post channels Democratic hopes:
Failure to act this week would jeopardize Congress’s ability to ever authorize the National Security Agency’s surveillance efforts, which Republicans see as vital to national security but which many Democrats and civil libertarians regard as unconstitutional. GOP leaders say that if legislation is not completed, they will revisit the issue in a lame-duck session of Congress that will be convened after the Nov. 7 elections.
But most independent political analysts expect Democrats to pick up between three and five seats in the Senate, and possibly more. Without the political pressure of a looming election and with a strengthened hand coming in the next Congress, Senate Democrats would probably filibuster Republican wiretapping legislation this year, congressional Democrats said.
Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, warned that a bill could still appear Friday night or Saturday morning, appended to other legislation. But she added, “If it doesn’t happen at 3 a.m. Saturday, it will be become much harder for them to pass a bad bill.”
The Senate went on summer vacation too soon, and stayed away too long. Now it is departing to early. It is hard to square such fecklessness with the wartime needs of a great nation.