Judicial Filibusters, 2011 Version

When Democrats blocked a series of judicial nominees from President George W. Bush, many Republicans denounced the move, arguing filibusters of judges went against the Constitution.

Democrats at that time talked in stentorian tones about how they were upholding the Constitution and dutifully following their power of advise and consent.

Now there is a Democrat in the White House and Republicans are in the minority in the Senate.

And the roles have completely changed, as GOP Senators try to filibuster one of President Obama's nominees for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Goodwin Liu.

Liu has been a lightning rod since he was first nominated for the appellate court, as many Republicans believe President Obama wants to eventually make him the first Asian-American nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats used the filibuster to block 10 appeals court nominees in the Bush Administration; this is the first from President Obama to reach this stage.

And it has both parties reaching back into the record to undercut the current argument of the other party.

In other words, many members are simply doing a back flip and are now making the opposite argument of what they made during the Bush years.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put out a long list of quotes from GOP Senators who were in office back in the Bush years talking about how awful it was to use the filibuster against judicial nominees.

It includes quotes from Senators Alexander (TN), Burr (NC), Coburn (OK), Chambliss (GA), Isakson (GA), Cochran (MS), Cornyn (TX), Crapo (ID), DeMint (SC), Enzi (WY), Graham (SC), Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Hutchison (TX), Inhofe (OK), Kyl (AZ), McConnell (KY), Murkowski (AK), Roberts (KS), Sessions (AL), Shelby (AL), Thune (SD) and Vitter (LA).

The quotes included one from current Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who took a tough line in the Bush Administration against Democrats and their judicial filibusters.

"Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration," McConnell said in May of 2005.

"But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote."**

Don't worry, Democrats have all kinds of similar quotes too, as they loved the filibuster back then, and now it's a terrible miscarriage of Senate procedure.

That's the way things work around here - the parties exchange arguments when they exchange majority and minority status.

Just last week, the Senate held a cloture vote on a judicial nominee, and there were a group of Republicans who voted against the filibuster, holding to their calls from previous years against blocking judicial choices of a President.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said GOP calls for a filibuster were a "virtually unprecedented action," even though Leahy was one Democrat who joined in filibusters in the Bush years, including against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

(Another Democrat to vote to filibuster Alito was the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.)

The Republians voting for cloture last week were Alexander (TN), Brown (MA), Chambliss (GA), Collins (ME), Graham (SC), Isakson (GA), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), Snowe (ME) and Thune (SD), as Democrats mustered 63 votes.

Will that be repeated on Liu today? He's more controversial and is on the appeals court, rather than just a district court judge like the above example.

We'll see how many Republicans meant what they said in 2005 about not filibustering judges. It could make the difference for the Liu nomination.

**Sen. McConnell's chief spokesman pushed back hard against this story, saying the Senate GOP Leader never considered supporting any judicial filibuster until Democrats undertook their big push against nominees in the Bush Administration.

"Sen. McConnell NEVER voted against cloture on a judge nominated by a President of either party until Democrats changed the rules during the Bush years," wrote McConnell's Don Stewart in an email early this morning.

"It is inaccurate to say that "That's the way things work around here - the parties exchange arguments when they exchange majority and minority status." Stewart added.