An Unwelcome Compromise

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, May 24, 2005; 1:57 PM

Yesterday's last-minute bipartisan compromise averting a historic clash on judicial nominations was just that: A compromise.

But this White House isn't keen on compromises. It hasn't had to compromise much so far. And it doesn't want to compromise now.

Compromise means the Senate is not following the White House script. And where that leads is anyone's guess.

Dan Balz writes in a Washington Post news analysis: "The deal brings mixed results for President Bush. It means that at least three of the nominees who have been blocked for years will make it to the appellate courts, while at least two will not. Beyond that, without a total ban on judicial filibusters, as the nuclear option would have guaranteed, the president will not have such a free hand in selecting a Supreme Court nominee. He also will be under pressure from the moderates to work more cooperatively with the Senate on judicial nominations or face rebellion from at least some of them."

Janet Hook and Ronald Brownstein write in the Los Angeles Times that the agreement "is an unusual challenge to Bush and GOP leaders who until now have commanded remarkable party discipline on a wide range of issues. It throws a rare obstacle in the Republicans' steady march toward the overarching goal of the Bush presidency: to parlay the party's slim majority in the country into major changes in policy and in government institutions for years to come."

Peter S. Canellos writes in the Boston Globe: "Emerging from their weeks of negotiations like a long-sequestered jury, Senate moderates delivered a stunning verdict to the White House and Congress: Politicians have spent too much time rallying their bases of support and not enough time coming together in the national interest."

Richard W. Stevenson writes in the New York Times: "President Bush won enough from the bipartisan compromise on judicial nominees on Monday night to claim a limited victory, but he now faces a series of additional tests of his political authority, with the stakes extending to the fate of his second-term agenda. . . .

"Beyond the judicial nominations, administration officials and their outside advisers recognize that the convergence of so many high-stakes issues in such a short period will shape public perceptions of Mr. Bush's power at a time when his approval ratings are already lackluster and his signature domestic initiative, remaking Social Security, is in trouble. . . .

"But when faced with tight legislative situations in the past, Mr. Bush has shown an ability to win narrowly, or to win ugly, or occasionally, as when faced in his first term with certain defeat over his opposition to creating a new homeland security department, to capitulate and brazenly claim an opponent's idea as his own.

"So no one is counting him out now, in any of the specific battles he faces, or in the overall situation."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times that "two old bulls of the Senate - Robert C. Byrd and John W. Warner . . . parsed the language of Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper No. 66 in an effort to divine what the founding fathers intended when they gave the Senate the power to advise and consent on nominees. After trading telephone calls over the weekend, they drafted three crucial paragraphs.

"The agreement contends that the word 'advice' in the paper 'speaks to consultation between the Senate and the president with regard to the use of the president's power to make nominations.' It goes on to state, '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.' " Reaction to the agreement suggests that opponents of the president are a great deal happier about all this than his loyalists.


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