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May 27, 2005

Ambiguous Advances
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill May 25, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill May 25, 2005, with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., right, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., after the Senate voted 56-43 to confirm Priscilla Owen as a federal appellate judge. (AP/Dennis Cook)

Here's what happened in one day this week in Washington:

A bipartisan group of 14 senators agreed on ambiguous language to avoid an angry showdown over using Senate filibusters against the president's judicial nominees. Chief Justice William Renquist was seen in his wheelchair on a trip to the doctor, highlighting the fact that there could soon be an even angrier fight over Supreme Court nominees. And, for the first time in five years, the Supreme Court agreed to consider an abortion case next term -- a decision likely to intensify any debate over nominations to the court. It was a wicked brew of developments, probably meaning we're in for a bloody battle between the president and the Senate this summer.

Here's the critical language in the compromise agreement:

"Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist."

Joining the panel to discuss this are John Fund and James Taranto writer and editor of OpinionJournal.com.

Daniel Henninger
Daniel Henninger
"What has this done for the tenor and disposition of the Senate in terms of the president's future nominees? It didn't kill party politics did it?"
Melanie Kirkpatrick
Melanie Kirkpatrick
"One way it has changed a potential Supreme Court fight though is on what basis will the fight take place? It's going to be harder for the Democrats to argue that a candidate has too conservative a judicial philosophy after they just allowed three conservative nominees to go through. That means they are going to have to look for other issues."
James Taranto
James Taranto
"The agreement says that in determining whether there are extraordinary circumstances 'each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.' That's not what they were doing before. They were voting the party line. So in a way you can look at this as a break in the Democratic unity."
John Fund
John Fund
"No, it just deferred them. If there is a Supreme Court vacancy, it is going to be a bloody hot summer. I think the American people looking at this agreement must be a little confused because on Monday, 14 senators came out and they were all smiles. You know, we've averted this major train wreck. On Thursday, a filibuster was mounted against John Bolton as U.N. ambassador."

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Links and Sources

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Paul Gigot Commentary


ARCHIVE: WSJ - Daniel Henninger Commentary


ARCHIVE: Opinion Journal - John Fund On the Trail