Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Unintended Consequence of the Filibuster Deal

Yes, I do occasionally post about things other than "Star Wars"!

Mickey Kaus, in a rare permalinked post, suggests that the hidden, Marxian purpose of the filibuster deal was to preserve the lobbying system that drives the Washington, D.C. economy. (In sum: the filibuster, compared to the party discipline of the House, gives each individual Senator a tremendous amount of power. That power requires each Senator to be "wined, dined and fawned over", which in turn requires armies of lobbyists. Those lobbyists cost money, which is the backbone of everything from the Palm steakhouse to the Washington Post's real estate advertising. Hence, the moderates' compromise prevents the D.C. economy from collapsing.)

I had a somewhat similar thought when I first heard of the compromise. During the debates on the "nuclear option", McCain, Lieberman, et al., ("the moderates") repeatedly insisted that the problem was that both parties had been captured by extremist interest groups that were using the issue of judges to flex their political muscle and increase their fundraising in the respective grassroots. A moderate deal, we were told, was necessary to defeat the power of "extremists on both sides" (Lieberman).

But of course, since the deal just kicks the filibuster can down the road to the first Supreme Court nomination, it actually accomplishes exactly the opposite. It preserves the ability of groups like People for the American Way, or the Focus on the Family, to use the next judicial nomination as an opportunity to flex their political muscle and ramp up their fundraising. If the "nuclear option" had been used, that would have been the death-knell for these groups, at least on this issue, because there would have been so much less ground to argue over. The Senate would have confirmed, by party-line vote, all the President's nominees, and would be expected to do the same for a future Supreme Court nominee. Instead, everything is up in the air, and at the next nomination cycle, we'll see Ralph Neas asserting that any judge to the right of Justice Stevens constitutes "extreme circumstances", James Dobson insisting that the Democrats have broken the deal and the nuclear option has to be retriggered, and ads ripping off the latest action blockbuster. And gobs of cash will be raised by all.

Hmmm... a McCain-brokered deal likely to generate lots of unintended consequences that run directly counter to the Senator's intentions.... why does this sound familiar?