The pact, signed by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, says a judicial nominee will be filibustered only under "extraordinary circumstances." Key members of the group said yesterday that a nominee's philosophical views cannot amount to "extraordinary circumstances" and that therefore a filibuster can be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character.
Further into the article, we see that this seems to come from the right, not the left:
"Based on what we've done in the past with Brown, Pryor and Owen," Graham said, "ideological attacks are not an 'extraordinary circumstance.' To me, it would have to be a character problem, an ethics problem, some allegation about the qualifications of the person, not an ideological bent."
The article then quotes a spokesman for Democrat Bill Nelson, who agrees that ideology is not an "extraordinary circumstance" unless it is on "the extreme of either side." So the idea that the SCOTUS is not extraordinary IS coming from the left, albiet center left.
Now, I know many of here think the very fact there is a vacany on the Court constitutes an "extraordinary circumstance." But it is pretty clear some members of the Gang of 14 do not agree.
And this is the concern I, along with many, many others expressed when the filibuster deal was made. "Extraordinary circumstance" was undefined in the agreement, allowing either side to import their own definition and seek to bind the opposition to it. In that sense, there really is no deal at all. Where there is no mutual understanding, where parties assent to an agreement with different interpretations and different views of their respective obligations, that agreement is worthless.
So be prepared for hours of debate on what constitutes an "extraordinary circumstance." Be prepared for each side to argue they aren't holding up their part of the deal. And be prepared, once again, for the launch of the nuclear option if Bush does not nominate a consensus candidate.