The Fight Over the D.C. Circuit

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jonathan Chait argues that Senate Republicans are departing from previous norms in their opposition to President Obama’s judicial nominees: “It’s easy to lose sight of the breadth of the issue at stake, because the two parties have jostled for decades over just how free a hand the president can wield in seeding the judiciary with allies. . . . Neither party ever contemplated anything resembling the full-scale blockade Senate Republicans are imposing upon the D.C. Circuit.”

So when Democrats mounted an unprecedented series of filibusters against Bush’s appeals-court nominees, that was just normal politics. They may have gone too easy on those nominees, since they were “extreme jurists” (Miguel Estrada? Peter Keisler?).

Chait also writes, “Why are Republicans renewing the confrontation? One reason seems to be that they feel they have given enough by backing down before: Having agreed to allow a few administration appointments, they feel entitled to renew routine filibusters.” A few months ago, Sri Srinivasan was confirmed unanimously to the D.C. Circuit. So, in other words, the unprecedented “full-scale blockade” is not actually a full-scale blockade.

The temptation to dress up a power grab as a matter of high principle is, evidently, hard to resist.

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