Sauce for the goose … what comes around, goes around … be careful what you wish for … Pick your proverb, adage, or cliché ahead of reading this Reuters report on Democratic unhappiness over Donald Trump’s success in appointed judges to the federal bench. Try looking for one name in particular, who really should get all the credit for Trump’s success:
As President Donald Trump pursues his goal of making the federal judiciary more conservative, his fellow Republicans who control the Senate are poised to confirm another batch of his picks for influential U.S. appeals courts to the dismay of some Democrats.
Actually, I’m betting that it’s “to the dismay” of all Democrats. Mitch McConnell has set up another half-dozen confirmations this week, and says he will keep the Senate in session long enough to fill as many slots as he can by the end of the year. They will have lots and lots of opportunities to vent their dismay, but little chance of doing anything about it.
Why? Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley doesn’t quite get around to explaining that:
A long-standing Senate tradition that gave senators clout over judicial nominees from their home states has been fraying for years, meaning Democrats have less of a chance of blocking appointees they oppose, as they did with some success during Republican former President George W. Bush’s administration. …
For Trump and his party, setting aside a long-standing Senate tradition may be a worthwhile price to pay to achieve what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called a top goal: shifting the ideological composition of the federal judiciary to the right.
Ahem. Exactly who was it that set aside long-standing Senate tradition in order to force presidential nominees to the bench through to confirmation? That would be Harry Reid, who changed the rules and ended precedent unilaterally to thwart the Republican obstruction of nominees that had followed the Democratic obstruction during the Bush administration to which Hurley refers. It was his nuclear option in 2013 that allowed Barack Obama to stack the DC appellate court and eliminate the GOP minority’s ability to slow down the process. He also changed the rules on all other kinds of presidential appointments, which caused Democrats a lot of “dismay” when Trump selected his cabinet officials.
How many times does the name Harry Reid come up in Hurley’s account? Zero.
At least NBC manages to get its history straight:
Over the first year-plus of Trump’s presidency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken advantage of the GOP’s numbers and Senate rule changes to prioritize the confirmation of judges to lifetime appointments, putting a strong conservative imprint on the courts that could also pay dividends for the party’s Senate candidates in a rocky election season.
Congress has not passed much major legislation aside from the ambitious tax cut and reform package the president signed into law. And there are no big initiatives on the horizon for candidates to tout on the campaign trail. But McConnell, a tactician acutely aware of electoral politics, has given GOP voters a growing number of young conservative federal judges who could sit on the bench for 30 to 40 years.
“Circuit judges have been my top priority,” McConnell told Fox News last month. “We’re not behind on circuit judges; we’re way ahead.” …
Republicans have had success with judicial nominees in large part because of a rule change in 2013 when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, frustrated with an inability to pass Obama nominees, changed the threshold to move forward on judges from 60 votes to 51.
Basically, Democrats find themselves dismayed from being hoist with their own petard. Republicans warned Democrats at the time that the rule change, and especially Reid’s insistence that precedent could be changed with a bare majority, would come back to haunt them sooner or later. Sooner came first, and now that it’s arrived, so have the lamentations.
Some will say that Republicans should learn a lesson from this, too, and they may be right. However, it seems that they did learn the lesson in 2013, and from 2002-2006 as well. Democrats played hardball, and played fast and loose with rules and precedent. Perhaps both parties will agree to return to the previous rules. But who would trust either to stick to their word? Thanks to Harry Reid, who demolished what was left of Senate comity, a majority party would be foolish to hand obstructive power on presidential appointments back to the minority. Republicans have certainly learned that lesson.