The Impossible Will Take a Little While
From CommonDreams.org & The Huffington Post
EXTRAORDINARILY RANCID JUSTICES
Senate votes in Bush’s long-filibustered nominees, the nuclear option
compromise is looking more rancid than reasonable. The seven Democrats who
helped broker the compromise pledged not to filibuster except in the most
extraordinary circumstances. But given the track record of Priscilla Owens,
Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor, I wonder how extreme a candidate has
to be before these Democrats and their seven Republican colleagues would
Because the participating Democrats agreed not to filibuster Owens, Brown, and Pryor, the public barely heard the stories of why their nominations crossed an unacceptable line. We heard mostly the inside baseball of legal abstractions. But their history is pretty drastic:
· Brown considers protections like the minimum wage and food safety standards as unconstitutional intrusions on commerce, and attacked the New Deal as “the triumph of our own socialist revolution.” She’ll now be able to protect us from legal protection from her seat on the second highest court in the land. Yet not a single Republican voted against her.
· In a dissent from her largely Republican colleagues on the Texas Supreme Court, Priscilla Owens supported a law that allowed certain private landowners to exempt themselves from "any environmental regulations" inconsistent with their own land use and water quality plans. She also argued for such draconian limits on the ability of minors seeking abortions to get permission from a judge that her then-colleague Alberto Gonzales said accepting her logic "would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism."
· Pryor defended Alabama’s practice of handcuffing prisoners to a hitching post under the hot sun if they refused to work on chain gangs, and urged the Supreme Court to hold that a disabled state employee who has been discriminated against in the workplace cannot sue the state for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In return for establishing these judges as a new acceptable standard, the seven compromising Democrats kept the theoretical right to filibuster. But it’s guaranteed only if they don’t exercise it. They saved an abstract principle at the price of agreeing to cave in practically every imaginable circumstance.
But Owens, Brown, and Pryor are now the new acceptable standard of judges confirmed for lifetime appointments. Their acceptance invites the Republican right to push the envelope still further. For all the talk of moderation and compromise, and for all the protestations of right wing spokesmen like James Dobson and Paul Weyrich, a bit more of this country’s future just got handed over to those who would leave no recourse for people without power. The so-called moderate compromisers who made this possible are smelling more craven than courageous right now.