Remember The "Gang Of 14?"

You remember those 14 Senators who agreed:

Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

(Emphasis supplied.) Among the Senators who agreed to this were John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. The other day, these 4 Republican Senators reneged on this agreement. They signed this letter to President Obama:

We hope your Administration will consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states. Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee. Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation. And we will act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues if it is not.

So when McCain, Graham, Snowe and Collins promised to only filibuster "under extraordinary circumstances," they were lying. But I think we all knew that at the time.

I urged the filibuster of any number of Bush judicial appointees and believe these Senators are acting within their constitutional rights, even their constitutional duty, when they consider filibustering President Obama's potential judicial nominees.

What I want to know is where are all the advocates for "up or down" votes now? where all all the supporters of the "Gang of 14" now? Why isn't David Broder up in arms now? We also know the answer to this question - because they are a bunch of lying hypocrites, that's why.

Speaking for me only

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    The hell they are (5.00 / 5) (#1)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:42:39 AM EST
    I'm sorry, but you can't filibuster well qualified judicial nominees with 41 seats.

    But you're right, this letter proves that they were liars then, as they are now.

    Total arrogance (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:50:25 AM EST
    Just as with fiscal responsibility, the Republican's again show exactly what the double standard is!

    "Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee".

    Whatever happened to their argument that elections have consequences? Has anyone told them that they lost? They don't seem to realize that fact.

    Elections do have consequences (5.00 / 1) (#61)
    by dualdiagnosis on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 03:23:06 PM EST
    the consequences here are that the previous agreement no longer applies.

    Even seeing the 'Gang of 14' in the title (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:35:30 AM EST
    of the post made me read it with dread. What a hall of shame they are.

    I hope Obama and Axelrod treat this letter with suitable respect.

    straight out of Maoist China (none / 0) (#32)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:47:21 AM EST
    they should all be so proud.

    This is the only Gang of Four (none / 0) (#44)
    by scribe on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:37:52 PM EST
    I'm interested in.  They teach their guitars to make sounds nature never intended.

    About 5 yr ago, there was a wave of college stations playing early punk.  I was listening to one such station when the distinctive - unique - guitar warping these guys put out came over the air.  I had to pull over to savor the moment.  After the song, the DJ came on and had to explain the derivation of the band's name - all the kids in school were born after the Gang of Four had come and gone on the world stage.

    It was then that I got my first twinge of feeling old....


    Are you telling us this is music? (none / 0) (#56)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:52:22 PM EST
    you shouldn't really judge by the audio (none / 0) (#58)
    by DFLer on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 02:14:30 PM EST
    from a live gig posted on youtube The audio sucks(ellipsis)can't hear any bottom end, nor bass gtr. or any drums beyond cymbals. You might not like it anyway, but (ellipsis)

    Most likely not. (none / 0) (#59)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 02:24:50 PM EST
    Reminds me of the guys who "play" the turntable.

    actually, may remind you of that because the vocal (none / 0) (#62)
    by DFLer on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 04:56:49 PM EST
    is rap style, but these guys are actually playing instruments, not turntables at all. thanks for that.

    Yup - just plain stupid (none / 0) (#48)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:09:19 PM EST
    on top of everything else.

    gee BTD, i think (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:47:31 AM EST
    a bunch of lying hypocrites,

    is a tad harsh. it does state a requirement for

    extraordinary circumstances

    after all. the question then becomes: define extraordinary circumstances?

    in this instance, i believe we have our answer: extraordinary circumstances occur when a democrat is elected president.

    someone just forgot to clarify this, when the original agreement was written. had they insisted on it, i doubt the agreement it would have been signed by any republicans.

    The Digby Corollary (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:50:20 AM EST
    Of course (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:42:11 PM EST
    How many here believe that had McCain been elected, the Dem Senators would have gone along with his judicial picks?

    Oh wait....they're Dems...they'd cave on anything....

    My favorite part of that letter (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Anne on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:47:12 PM EST
    is the addition of the phrase "and approve of," which, when you cut to the chase really means the same thing as "bipartisan" in GOP-speak: give us our way.

    I have no problem with Senators from the states being consulted about judicial nominations, but I do not believe that approval is or should be a deal-breaker.

    We have a history in the Fourth Circuit, of which my state, MD, is a part, of contentious wrangling over judicial nominations.

    Here's an article from 2006 that, after you read it, will have you wondering whether there is a giant sandbox in Richmond, in which all the players squabble and throw sand at each other.

    An excerpt:

    The politics of judge-picking have been a particularly virulent pox on the Senate over the past few years; lately, it's the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the battle lines are most closely drawn.

    Of the three or four highly contentious circuit court nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, two are set to fill slots on the Richmond, Va.-based court: U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle and Department of Defense general counsel William Haynes II, whose tenure at DOD includes controversial policies on detainees and torture.

    A third slot on the court has been vacant since Baltimore attorney Francis Murnaghan Jr. died almost six years ago. Maryland's two Democratic senators, Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, have long insisted that the Bush administration choose a lawyer with deep Maryland roots. The White House acceded in 2004 by nominating its chief domestic policy adviser, Claude Allen, the former secretary of health and human resources for the commonwealth of Virginia. Allen, who had never practiced in Maryland and whose 4th Circuit nomination lapsed in December 2005, resigned from the White House in February, shortly before he was charged with a felony theft scheme for allegedly defrauding department stores by returning items he had not purchased and claiming a refund.


    Democratic senators who serve during a Republican administration, as is the case with Maryland's two senators, find their influence severely diminished -- at least with this White House. Before Allen's 2004 nomination to the 4th Circuit, the name of D.C. lawyer Peter Keisler had been seriously floated, but he took himself out of the running after Sarbanes and Mikulski opposed him. Keisler, now the assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, was not a member of the Maryland Bar.

    The latest potential nominee, reported in April by The Baltimore Sun, is U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, a Pennsylvanian who also lacks deep Maryland roots and is opposed by Sarbanes and Mikulski. Sarbanes, who is retiring, has a particular fondness for the circuit; in 1960 and 1961 he clerked for Morris Soper, a 4th Circuit judge appointed by President Herbert Hoover.

    I swear, these people are like cats marking territory, and woe betide the intruder who dares to invade it.

    I'm no great fan of the filibuster (none / 0) (#2)
    by Demi Moaned on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:43:35 AM EST
    And I did not sympathize with the rejoicing on the Left over the Gang of 14's rescue of the filibuster.

    I think most of us tried to differentiate (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:46:30 AM EST
    the judicial filibuster from the general purpose filibuster.

    But I think frankly that a Democratic filibuster in 2004 was inherently more legitimate than any Republican filibuster would be today. Democrats Senators, though in the minority, nevertheless represented many more people than Republican Senators.


    I thought it was a bogus differentiation (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Demi Moaned on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:54:39 AM EST
    Legitimacy doesn't really enter into it.

    Yes, it's true that Democrats could have used the filibuster as a tool to prevent some of the worst Bush-era abuses. But they very rarely did.

    In practice, in my lifetime, the filibuster has been used much more frequently and effectively to block progressive action than to stymie right-wing abuses. And the next several years are only going to increase that ratio.


    I am in favor of significantly reducing (5.00 / 6) (#9)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:57:13 AM EST
    the number of circumstances when cloture is required. But I am more in favor of abolishing the Senate, which is frankly the real problem in all of this. It does not even attempt to represent the American people in a fair way.

    Now you're talking (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Demi Moaned on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:59:06 AM EST
    I'd definitely sign on for abolishing the Senate.

    Them's some fighten words n/t (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:02:56 AM EST
    Jean Edwards Smith (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:05:28 AM EST
    wrote in the Times about the "undemocratic" filibuster without noting the obvious - the Senate itself is undemocratic.

    So you would have been OK (none / 0) (#21)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:54:48 AM EST
    with the Gingrich congress having its way unchecked back in the day?  You realize that would have meant, among many other things, that President Clinton would have been thrown out of office.

    The veto would still have had (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:59:17 AM EST
    considerable power.

    But I think that elections should have consequences in America.


    Elections don't have (none / 0) (#64)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 06:11:04 AM EST
    consequences?  You can sit there and say that after what we've been through the last eight years?

    They got their cake then (5.00 / 6) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:51:19 AM EST
    and now are eating it.

    It was the worst of all worlds, the Gang of 14 deal.

    Just terrible.


    And we're left with Janice Rogers Brown (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:52:38 AM EST
    for all eternity.

    Looking on the bright side: (none / 0) (#25)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:01:00 AM EST
    she is no longer on the California Supreme Court.

    Yesterday I had to do medical paperwork (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:46:22 AM EST
    at the Lyster Army Hospital.  I have a face and personality that invites conversation I guess, I really do like people though.  I mean if we don't talk with each other even when we have differing beliefs and opinions we can never learn to respect each other outside of our alikeness.  Fox News was on in the EFMP office and someone said something and I snorted at it.  My snort was misunderstood though by another woman who was also there.  Wooboy did she go off on how little time the Republicans claim they had to read the new stimulus package before the vote.  I couldn't believe that someone right leaning would have the gall to freak out about what they are experiencing as procedural unfairness in the halls of Congress.  I said so too and reminded her about how "fair" it was when Republicans ran everything.  We both then agreed that they are a bunch of self serving self saving politicians:)

    Oh my, I would not want to be the one (none / 0) (#16)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:25:32 AM EST
    picking a random fight with you in a waiting room. She did not know who she was dealing with. It is a good lesson for me - you never know how smart the everyday people you encounter really are.

    I'm glad you showed her some mercy in the end. That military family bonding saved her!


    We agreed that we should run for (none / 0) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:01:06 PM EST
    city council against each other since neither one of us could be bought off, I wonder if that would be true though if it were tested?  I wonder if either one of us is as incorruptable as we thought we were yesterday?

    I think you both probably score (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by ruffian on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:17:51 PM EST
    pretty high on the incorruptible scale. I'd say two people that would strike up that kind of a conversation in a waiting room care more about the issue than the average pol.

    If They Have To Be Consulted (none / 0) (#10)
    by Blue Jean on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:57:34 AM EST
    about nominees from their states, then OK.  Too bad, you nominees who happen to come from Maine, Arizona, and South Carolina; you just got crossed off the list for the next 4 years.  Remember that on the next Election Day.

    ALL 41 Republicans signed the letter (none / 0) (#14)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:05:35 AM EST
    So, it's more than 3 states.

    We still got some safe states (none / 0) (#15)
    by CST on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:07:40 AM EST
    The northeast is theirs for the taking.

    They know that if they didn't (none / 0) (#23)
    by scribe on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:57:53 AM EST
    Rush would beat them upside the head with his flabby arms.

    And they fear nothing like they fear Rush.


    My Bad, IG (none / 0) (#27)
    by Blue Jean on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:34:44 AM EST
    So, instead of crossing states off, California, New York, Arkansas, are moved up instead.  There's more than enough Democratic nominees from states with two Democratic senators.

    Obama Will Honor Their... (none / 0) (#18)
    by santarita on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:41:17 AM EST
    request and then use the bully pulpit to point out what a bunch of obstructionists they are when they systematically turn down each proposed nominee.  

    This shows how weak they are at this point.  They are grasping at straws.

    And of course they are hypocrites.  The only unusual aspect of this is how open they are in their hypocrisy.  It is almost as if they think the American people are too ignorant of recent history to call thm on it.  And they can rely on the media not to point their hypocrisy out.

    You know they're really sucking up (none / 0) (#22)
    by scribe on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:56:31 AM EST
    when all the Rethuglican senators wreite and sign a letter wherein they call their opposite numbers "Democratic".

    No, calling them the "Democrat" senators, now.

    And, in case you need a reminder just why the Rethugs are so anxious to get Keisler confirmed (when Specter went to the WH for the Super Bowl party, pushing Kieisler's nomination along with Diamond, a former staffer of his, was Specter's big ask), go back and read my diary (from 2006) telling you why he should be blocked.

    The Rethugs have been trying - and failing - to get Keisler on the bench since 2001.  There's a reason for that.  He is, or is close to, the black heart of the Federalist Society.

    Since the agreement only applied (none / 0) (#29)
    by Think Before You Type on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:42:45 AM EST
    to the 109th Congress (check your own Wikipedia link), it would seem that the senators in question neither reneged nor lied.

    BTD - you, on the other hand, have either made a mistake (charitable interpretation) or lied (uncharitable interpretation) in your post.

    I can tell from reading your posts that you're a fair-minded person, so I assume you'll want to correct your error.


    Ha! (none / 0) (#38)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:07:58 PM EST
    you must be joking.

    It was good for the 109th Congress but not now?

    Pray tell what the reasoning for that would be?


    All right, I'll spell it out (none / 0) (#39)
    by Think Before You Type on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:30:43 PM EST
    Renege:  to go back on an agreement.

    Details of agreement (from the source you linked to):

    The Gang of 14 signed an agreement, pertaining only to the 109th Congress, whereby the seven Senate Democrats would no longer vote along with their party on filibustering judicial nominees (except in "extraordinary circumstances"), and in turn the seven Senate Republicans would break with Bill Frist and the Republican leadership on voting for the "nuclear option."

    The 109th Congress is now over.  So how are they reneging, given that the term of the agreement is complete?  If you think the agreement should be renewed, that's a different issue; but then you should be advocating for this renewal rather than accusing your fellow human beings of reneging or lying when it appears that this is not the case.

    Also, many of the readers here at TalkLeft might not have known that the agreement was effective for the 109th Congress only.  If I didn't know you better from having read your work (on this site and others) for a number of years, I might have thought you were intentionally trying to mislead them.  I only took the time to comment since I know this is not the case.


    You spell it out all right (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:33:11 PM EST
    The reasoning for the agreement only applies when a Republican is President.

    When it is a Democratic President, filibustering judicial nominees is perfectly fine.

    I think you spelled it out quite well.


    For example (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:36:03 PM EST
    The agreement stated:

    "We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word "Advice" speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President's power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

    Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.

    We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold."

    If it was "consistent" then, why is is not "consistent" now?

    [edit] Initia


    There could be a number of (none / 0) (#47)
    by Think Before You Type on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:03:22 PM EST
    courses of action consistent with the traditions of the Senate.  The Republicans from the "Gang" took a step to preserve the filibuster at a time when the filibuster benefited Democrats (since Republicans controlled the Senate).  Why should we be criticizing these politicians who stepped outside their party's narrow interests?

    In any case, do you believe that even though the agreement had an explicitly stated ending date (without which many of the parties might not have signed on to it), it is nonetheless effective indefinitely?  If you actually believe this, please explain.  [Note that you didn't say these senators are unwise or behaved inconsistently; you said they reneged and lied - strong words indeed.]


    I think they were lying. (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 02:12:22 PM EST
    I think that whole filibuster dust up was basically a way to make the Democrats scared enough to back off of using it.  The GOP - even in their mania of thinking they were going to be in power for all eternity - understood that were they to be in the minority again without the filibuster option they'd be toast.  So they pretended they were going to end the practice, approached certain Democrats that they knew would be easily manipulated with their game and effectively eliminated the option without having to officially do so or risk losing the power somewhere down the road.

    Why should we critcize them? (none / 0) (#54)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:41:30 PM EST
    I think I explained why in my post.

    Do you think the agreement (none / 0) (#55)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 01:42:07 PM EST
    was an enforceable legal contract?

    No, it was a gentleman's agreement (none / 0) (#60)
    by Think Before You Type on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 02:57:57 PM EST
    which was explicitly limited to the 109th Congress.  Do you dispute this?  It's easy enough to check my facts by looking at the text of the agreement. How can they have reneged on an agreement that was no longer operative?

    It's not clear what benefit progressives who want to promote honesty in government get by stretching the facts themselves when criticising the supposed perpetrators.  We progressives need to build a more honest culture from the ground up, starting with ourselves.


    I think your name is ironic (none / 0) (#41)
    by andgarden on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:33:55 PM EST
    given that you have no substantive response, and you have to resort to "that was then and this is now" as an argument.

    The Sneate was designed (none / 0) (#43)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:36:11 PM EST
    to buy ratification of the Constitution by states with small populations and because many of the founders didn't trust the commoners. It is an undemocratc institution whether or not people vote for Senators because Senators of small population states have the same say as those of large population states thereby giving more value, more say to people of small population states. This is exactly why large population states pay far more in federal taxes than they get back in federal taxes than the unpopulated red states railing against big government all the while getting back $1.40 for every $1.00 in taxes paid.

    the President serves a wholly different function than the Senate and has no bearing on a discussion of the validity of the Senate. The election of the President is undemocratic because the President is elected by the Electorial College. If you fixed all the problems and inconsistencies of the Electorial College, it still could never be a democratic institution because of the UNEQUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE SENATE.


    Problems with electoral system go even (none / 0) (#63)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 08:30:51 PM EST
    deeper, IMO.  When everyone in Congress is elected to represent a particular geographic area of the country, rather than the best interests of the country, you get earmarks, horsetrading and lots of local self-interest generally put before country.  It's amazing to me anything worthwhile ever gets done these days.

    Preemptive Filibuster (none / 0) (#33)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:54:53 AM EST
    what the dirt-bag, anti-American republicans won't think of next.

    Courts should reflect the people's values (none / 0) (#34)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 12:00:40 PM EST
    A more important principle than satisfying the republican borgs in the Senate would be to restore a federal court system that reflects the values of most Americans. After decades of republican shenanigans in the appointment of federal judges, the Judiciary is heavily weighted to the failed and rejected republican/conservative ideology. All of government in the US is designed to serve the people. The courts are not excluded - they should reflect the people's values instead of the corporatist-plutocratic-religious fundamentalist values of the insane republican/conservative fringe.