- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

Pardon me while I wipe the egg off my face. Last week I was one of a handful of conservatives praising the Senate compromise on judicial nominees, which preserved the filibuster while guaranteeing several of President Bush’s most conservative nominees an up-or-down vote.

I argued Democrats would be chastened into using the filibuster judiciously — only “under extreme circumstances” in the words of the compromise itself. Boy was I wrong. In less than a week, the Democrats were back to their old tricks, filibustering John Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the United Nations.

I know “the deal,” as it’s come to be known, did not formally bind Democrats to forgoing all future filibusters on judicial nominees, much less other executive appointments. But the spirit of the compromise was to render the filibuster the exception, not the rule, in dealing with Bush nominees. And even if all Democrats were not bound by it, the signatories certainly had some obligation to abide by its spirit. Yet, by week’s end, only three of the seven Democrats who signed onto the compromise were willing to invoke cloture on the Bolton nomination, which would have allowed the nominee to be confirmed or rejected by the full Senate.

Democrat Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ken Salazar of Colorado — all of whom promised only “extreme circumstances” would justify a filibuster — nonetheless voted against ending debate on Mr. Bolton. Three other Democrat signatories and all seven Republicans who forged the compromise supported allowing the nomination to move to a vote. One Democratic signer, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and one moderate Republican not part of the compromise group, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, did not vote on the cloture motion. So, Mr. Bolton’s nomination remains in limbo.

Key Democrats claim they are only using the threatened filibuster to force the administration to turn over classified documents. They want to know why, as undersecretary of state for arms control, Mr. Bolton sought the identity of some U.S. citizens whose names were blocked out in certain intelligence intercepts and hope the documents might reveal a motive. But the chairman and the ranking Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee have seen the documents and say there is nothing unusual or incriminating about them — which suggests the stalling is simply more partisan games.

Many Democrats — including a fair number of members of Congress — seem unwilling to accept the results of last year’s election. They believed they were cheated out of the White House in 2000 and were sure they would win it back in 2004. When Americans didn’t oblige them, they tried to block the president’s ability to get his agenda through. They don’t want the president to appoint federal appellate judges, much less nominate a Supreme Court justice. They want to punish the president for daring to pick candidates who reflect his own conservative values, though the voters affirmed his leadership.

And some Democrats would love nothing better than to embarrass the president in international opinion, which is where Mr. Bolton’s nomination delay comes in. Nothing could please these sore losers more than to see the president humiliated before the United Nations if Mr. Bolton fails of confirmation.

There’s still time for cooler Democratic heads to prevail. Messrs. Byrd, Lieberman, Salazar and Inouye could still do the right thing and vote for cloture on the Bolton nomination when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess. But I’m not holding my breath. Bipartisanship has become a one-way affair. No matter how unprincipled the Democrats behave, they are rarely called to account. Only when Republicans cave in to Democratic demands are there accolades about statesmanship.

I still don’t like the “nuclear option,” but the Democrats may leave Republicans no choice. There’s still one last chance to salvage the compromise, but the Democrats must play fair and abide by its spirit as well as its words.

Linda Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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