The Corner

Frist On Judges

Mark Levin should be mostly happy, I would think:

“Our first responsibility above all else is to do our constitutional duty. Nothing should come before it. Nothing should stand between it. Not party, not ideology, and certainly not politics. And yet in the last Congress, I believe the Senate failed to perform in an essential constitutional duty. It failed to offer advice and consent to the president by filibustering ten judicial nominees and threatening to filibuster another six.

“These filibusters were unprecedented. Never in the history of the Senate has a minority filibustered a judicial nominee that had clear majority support. This was an abrupt and an unfortunate break in more than 200 years of Senate tradition, of Senate history. This tradition must be restored, not merely because we honor the traditions of the Senate, but because this tradition reflects the proper role for this body, the Senate, as designed by our Framers in the constitutional arrangement.

“Next month we’ll have the opportunity to restore Senate tradition. I’ll bring one of the president’s very capable and qualified judicial nominees to the floor. We can debate that nomination. We can vote to support it or to oppose it. And we must offer the president advice and consent by giving this and future judicial nominees who are brought to the floor up-or-down votes.

“Some, I know, have suggested that the filibusters of the last Congress are reason enough to offer a procedural change today right here and right now. But at this moment, I do not choose that path. My Democratic colleagues have new leadership, and in the spirit of bipartisanship, I want to extend my hand across the aisle. I have a sincere hope that we can move forward past difficulties, beyond the past difficulties we saw in the last Congress, and look forward to a future of cooperation. I seek cooperation not confrontation. Cooperation does not require support for the nominees. Cooperation simply means voting judicial nominees brought to the floor up or down.

“So let me say this: if my Democratic colleagues exercise self-restraint and don’t filibuster judicial nominees, Senate traditions will be restored. It will then be unnecessary to change Senate procedures. Self-restraint on the use of the filibuster for nominations, the very same self-restraint that Senate minorities exercised for more than two centuries will alleviate the need for any action.

“But if my Democratic colleagues continue to filibuster judicial nominees, the Senate will face this choice. Fail to do its constitutional duty or reform itself and restore its traditions and do what the Framers intended. Right now we cannot be certain judicial filibusters will cease, so I reserve the right to propose changes to Senate Rule 22 and do not acquiesce in the carrying over all the Rules from the last Congress.

“As a public servant who has twice taken an oath to support the Constitution, I cannot stand idly by, nor should any of us, if the Senate fails to do its constitutional duty. We as United States Senators have our constitutional duty to offer the president advice and consent.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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