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Tuesday, May 24, 2005


mccain's coup

the end of the filibuster is averted, or at least deferred. as i outlined before, judicial nominees were only a pretext for an ideological showdown that is still unresolved.

one should be mindful that the threat to the filibuster is not over. it simply relocates the power to destroy it from majority (and majoritarian) leader bill frist to this block of fourteen senators -- more particularly, the seven republicans led by sen. john mccain.

mccain managed to recruit seven out of the 55 republicans away from frist's control, reducing frist's camp to 48 and ending the possibility of executing the parliamentary maneuver that josh marshall outlined with a 50-vote split.

Asked Tuesday how senators would determine what "extraordinary circumstances" might warrant a filibuster threat in the future, McCain indicated on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the bipartisan group of senators who worked out the compromise would retain sufficient leverage to make such a determination.

"We're not asking all 100 senators to make that determination," he said. "We have 14 of us who are together and I am confident we will act in a way that if the circumstances are extraordinary, everyone will agree to that."
in other words, if mccain's seven should feel at any time in the future that the boundaries of the compromise are being abused in circumstances which are not "extraordinary", this entire process can be repeated with dramatic speed.

i imagine that the first real test of that will be with the death of aged supreme court justice william rehnquist. if the bush administration decides to nominate another antonin scalia -- or, worse, a john ashcroft -- to the bench, mccain will become the broker to which the white house must go for approval.

this is an immense coup for mccain, and puts him in the catbird's seat for any future supreme court nomination. it also affirms his popular reputation as a charismatic, sensibly moderate republican, bolstering his case for the republican nomination for the presidency in 2008 as a statement against the rising power of the fascist right. it's a threat they already see coming.

Dr. James C. Dobson, head of the Focus on the Family, one of the conservative groups that had made an end to judicial filibusters a top priority, said the agreement "represents a complete bailout and a betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."
but, while a victory for compromise, i cannot think it entirely healthy that the rights of the minority have warded off the threat of majoritarian usurpation only to be delivered into the hands of one man. the greatest defeat for the filibuster has already been delivered -- in 1917, when it became an obstacle to introspective affirmation of life, purpose and heroism in war that is wilsonian idealism -- a defeat that can be reconsidered or regretted but probably never undone.

UPDATE: the text of mccain's empowerment. and, via tpm, a link to chris matthews' transcript with lindsey graham indicating that the mccain group isn't done.

MATTHEWS: Social Security, do you think the president‘s plans for some kind of personal accounts has a better shot now?

GRAHAM: It has a shot versus no shot. And watch this group of 14 to come out with some deal for Social Security.


GRAHAM: Just keep watching.
UPDATE: the debate at reason.

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