I'm still not sure how I feel about the "Gang of 14" deal between seven Democrat and seven Republican senators. I initially thought it was a stupid deal for the Republicans because they sacrificed several appellate court nominees and agreed not to eliminate the filibuster in exchange for a rather weak agreement that the filibuster wouldn't be used except in "extreme circumstances". At this point, I don't see how maintaining the filibuster is a win for the Republicans, since demographic trends seem to indicate that they'll hold the Senate for a while. Even if they lose it, the filibuster is antidemocratic and was never envisioned by the framers, and I'm pretty much against the practice on pure principle.

The benefit to the Gang is that their own power is enhanced by forming a cabal of swing votes that must be appeased -- again, I don't see how this benefits democracy. I wonder if the President nominated Miers because the Gang privately shot down more qualified people? Rumors are circulating that Miers wasn't Bush's first choice, but that others on the short list declined to be nominated because they were afraid of the potential confirmation battle. The agreement of the Gang may have dampened enthusiasm for the filibuster in some cases, but it only strengthens the venom that will be injected into any nominate that surpasses the ambiguous threshold of "extremity".

An additional problem with the filibuster is that it shelters the half-dozen unreliable Senate Republicans who won't want to back a conservative nominee. If the Democrats invoke a filibuster the lefty Republicans won't have to cast a vote... unless the "nuclear option" gets put back on the table. Without filibusters, the majority of conservative Republicans could either strong-arm the lefties into compliance or at least force the internal disagreement out into the open.

So, with short-term historical perspective, who has the Gang of 14 deal benefitted most?



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