May 13, 2005,
For months, Republicans have been saying that the Senate ought to hold an up-or-down vote on each of President Bush’s nominees for the federal courts. We agree. We also think it’s time for senators to go on record in an up-or-down vote on that question.
It’s not as though an even more prolonged debate is going to yield any fresh information or insight into the question. The Democrats have their talking points chiefly, a preposterous insistence that a 60-vote requirement for confirmation is part of the Constitution or Senate tradition. Time will neither make them budge from that position nor render it less risible. It’s true that “the Constitution was not designed to make the government run efficiently,” as the Democrats and their pundits have been saying. But it wasn’t designed to make the government as inefficient as possible, either. The Constitution doesn’t require judges to get 60 votes before they can be confirmed, and it doesn’t stop a majority of the Senate from deciding that a majority is all confirmation should take.
More time is unlikely to yield any satisfactory compromise, either. Every compromise the Democrats have offered or floated has contained a very large loophole: They will reserve the right to filibuster any judicial nominee that they consider (or an important part of their fundraising base considers) “extreme.” Since that’s the justification they have used for almost every filibuster they have mounted, they are not making much of a concession.
will be able to keep the courts in the
business of imposing the Left’s agenda
cannot be accepted.”
There are enough novelties in this debate that tradition is no sure guide to action. The Senate has never voted to end filibusters of judges. But filibusters of judges have never been routinely waged before. The Democrats say that they are using them routinely now because no president has ever tried as hard to stack the courts ideologically. Even if that were true, it could be a justified response to the fact that courts have never had as much power in American life before, either.
So a majority of the Senate must decide between upsetting tradition by setting a formal 51-vote rule or upsetting tradition by allowing an informal 60-vote rule. The Constitution does not, in our view, require it to choose one way or the other. We have, in the past, thought it wisest to refrain from making a formal rules change. We always argued that a majority would be within its rights to impose a rules change. But we thought that any attempt by the Democrats to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee would likely collapse ignominiously and end the practice. That was a prudential judgment based on the circumstances then prevailing, however, and those circumstances have now changed. For Republicans to leave the filibusters in place now after months of demanding a change would itself be ignominious. It would tell everyone conservative voters, Democratic senators and interest groups, and the White House that Republican senators were irresolute in their support for judicial conservatism. It would thus set back the urgent cause of a reformation of the federal judiciary.
The risk that a minority of senators will be able to keep the courts in the business of imposing the Left’s agenda cannot be accepted. It is time to vote to end the judicial filibuster.
Saddam's EnablersOne of the biggest financial scandals of modern times just keeps getting bigger. Now we hear from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, that two European politicians, Britain’s George Galloway and France’s Charles Pasqua, together received allocations of over 30 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein under the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program. The two men, both vocal supporters of Saddam and opponents of the U.N. sanctions regime, are accused in the subcommittee’s report of participating in what Iraqi officials called the “Saddam Bribery System.” In exchange for their continued friendship, the report says, the two were among the select few granted quantities of Iraqi oil, which they could then turn around and sell for a profit. They allegedly attempted to cover up their activities by using third parties: in Pasqua’s case, the Swiss company Genmar; in Galloway’s, a charity he had set up to help a four-year-old girl suffering from leukemia.
The allegations in the report derive from careful research into previously unpublished Iraqi oil-ministry documents as well as from interviews with Hussein regime officials, and they could be devastating. Galloway and Pasqua both recently won elections to their national legislatures. Pasqua, a close friend and ally of Jacques Chirac, could go to prison; his former foreign-policy adviser and authorized representative in the oil exchanges, Bernard Guillet was arrested last month as part of a government investigation into Oil-for-Food. Should there be a parliamentary inquiry in France, Chirac could be in serious trouble. Meanwhile, Galloway has promised to testify in a subcommittee hearing in Washington next week (expect more scandalous revelations to come, and not just about these two men). It’s to be hoped that the British government will launch an investigation into the charges, and into the Oil-for-Food scandal generally.
The greatest lesson of this is how significant a role corrupt Westerners had in boosting Saddam’s regime. Not only did they provide the dictator with needed cash, but they played right into his scheme of using oil allocations to buy favor around the globe. Had they not done so, Iraq’s fate might have been quite different. At least, millions of Iraqis might have been better off, sooner.—The Editors