Some time back, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell came to a personal agreement on how many judges would be cleared this year. Senator Reid made a very clear commitment, but he very quickly started backtracking on that. His reasoning is clear, if lacking in integrity: why keep your promises about judicial nominations in this session of Congress when you might have more votes and a more favorable President in the next session of Congress.
Senator McConnell has had his eye on this for some time, and today he has put his foot down on it.
McConnell has essentially shut down the Senate floor this afternoon by forcing the Senate clerk to read aloud the entire 500 page global warming bill. ... McConnell (R-Ky.) believes Reid (D-Nev.) has backtracked on a promise to clear a significant number of Republican judicial nominees, but Democrats are becoming more and more hesitant to give Bush judges a lifelong appointment to the federal bench in the waning months of this White House.
I've got audio of the floor speech and question/answer session, and I've uploaded it to GoEar.com (follow the link - the embedded player doesn't work) so you can hear McConnell calmly explaining to Democrats that they can vote on judges or...stop everything else and talk about why they won't vote on judges.
There are costs and benefits to having a fight about judges right now.
- Cost: As Daily Kos' Kagro X notes, Democrats didn't want to do anything this year, anyway. They'd rather run out the clock this year, waiting for a better legislative environment next year. Now...they can't do anything. And they get to blame it on Senator McConnell and Republicans.
- Benefit: Do Democrats really want to talk about judges going into 2008? That will only lead to more Republican turnout...and questions about the Democratic judicial agenda. Had McConnell done this last year, it would have been forgotten by now. But right now - with the Democratic nomination finally locked up - putting judges front and center benefits Republicans.
If Dems continue to ignore judges, the rest of this session is going to be riddled this kind of thing by the Senate Republicans. The Right is perfectly happy to have a fight about judges.