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I'm not sure why this isn't getting more attention in the media.  Senate Democrats -- with some significant help from Republican Senators -- absolutely shattered a Republican attempt to filibuster a nominee for the Court of Appeals (the intermediate federal appellate court, just below the Supreme Court).  The vote was 70-29!

Not only was this a crushing defeat of the GOP's boneheaded attempt to block a highly-qualified and respected nominee (one who, as a sitting federal District Court judge, had already been confirmed once before by the Senate), but it represented the end, as a practical matter, of the famous "Gang of 14" compromise that moderate Senators from both parties entered into four years ago when Republicans ran the place.

As the Washington Post put it in the lede:

Democrats on Tuesday crushed a Senate filibuster against a controversial appeals court nominee, demonstrating to Republicans they can't stop President Barack Obama from turning the federal judiciary to the left.

Well, o.k. -- except that Judge David Hamilton's nomination wasn't really "controversial" to anyone to the left of Sen. Jefferson Davis Sessions of Alabama.  But at least they got the verb right.

The margin here is significant.  On the Republicans' first attempt to filibuster one of President Obama's judicial nominee, they failed miserably.  They didn't come close to holding their own -- and, with just 40 GOP Senators, they have to hold every single one and pick up at least one Democratic Senator, if party discipline holds.  This filibuster was pretty much doomed to failure from the start, because highly-respected Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar had said from the start that he supported the President's nomination of Hamilton, who is from Indiana.  Despite this, the GOP leadership mounted the blocking attempt anyway, with about as bad an outcome as they could have feared:  "Conservative Republican senators and their judicial-watching outside groups then launched a major political assault on Hamilton."  They lost ten Senators here, which is a rout when it comes to this kind of procedural showdown.  And the ones they lost included some pretty conservative votes: John Cornyn of Texas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Thune of S.Dakota, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Sen. Sessions and the Republican leadership tried to argue that they weren't actually breaking the "Gang of 14"'s agreement not to filibuster judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances," but no one is buying that.  This was a pretty naked political move to try to curry favor with their hard-right interest groups, and all it accomplished was a vivid demonstration of their weakness in the Senate.  They cried "wolf!" here, and no one believed them.  This is one of the relatively few procedural tactics that Republicans have available to them, and they blew it here.
 

Originally posted to twcollier on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 06:50 PM PST.

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