The fight over judges continues

THE FIGHT OVER JUDGES CONTINUES…. We’re bound to see some pretty bitter fights over judicial nominee during the next four years, the president’s desire to end “the confirmation wars” notwithstanding.

But at a gathering of the Republican National Lawyers Association in Washington yesterday, there were some interesting differences of opinion on GOP strategy.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, for example, said Obama’s nominees to the federal judiciary will likely be “poisoning the well of American jurisprudence for generations to come.” He added, however, that the filibuster should be off the table.

Is this because of Santorum’s deeply-held principles? Is it because he remembers not too long ago that he said the very idea of filibustering judicial nominees was an affront to the American system of government? No, it’s because Santorum doesn’t think the filibusters will work.

“The word filibuster should not come out of the lips of Republican senators,” Santorum told a gathering of the Republican National Lawyers Association in Washington. He said “any idea of a filibuster is folly” given the slim chances of success.

“You don’t pull out a gun if everybody in the room knows it’s not loaded,” Santorum said. […]

Santorum said many in the Republican caucus would be turned off by a filibuster and a failed one would make the GOP look all the more marginalized.

Great, Rick Santorum is becoming the voice of pragmatism in Republican politics.

For what it’s worth, the assembled GOP lawyers were less than pleased with Santorum’s advice, and expressed hopes that Republican senators would leave as many judicial vacancies open, indefinitely, as possible. (There are currently “69 vacant slots in the federal judiciary, 23 of which are categorized as judicial emergencies (including 11 on the Courts of Appeals) because of caseload needs combined with the duration of the vacancy.”)

Wendy Long, head of the Judicial Confirmation Network, which ironically no longer wants to see judicial conformations, is one of the leading far-right activists on nomination fights. She said yesterday that Republicans should approach nominees with “a presumption that they’re not going to be able to uphold their oath.”

Got that? Republican senators, who argued during Bush’s presidency that failing to confirm judicial nominees tears at the fabric of our democracy, should now reflexively assume that every Obama nominee, including those who haven’t even been named, is incapable of serving on the federal bench.

The mind reels.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.