- - Monday, November 6, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dams are breaking all over town. Donna Brazile’s new book, “Hacks,” has broken the dam that has been holding back a flood of insider stuff about how the Democratic National Committee smoothed the way for Hillary Clinton to win the party’s presidential nomination last year.

Revelation has followed revelation, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, who insisted at the time that the primaries were rigged, has the consolation now, for whatever it might be worth, that maybe Ms. Brazile had the facts. She should know, because she was once the chairman of the national committee.

Another dam-breaking with long-range consequences has released a flood of President Trump’s judicial appointments. Many Democrats thought enough resistance could cancel the 2016 election. The dam didn’t hold, and the Republicans can thank Harry Reid, the senator from Nevada and the leader of a Democratic majority in the old Senate.

A Senate rule required that a judicial nominee be approved by at least 60 senators, and the Republicans had just enough senators in their minority to deny confirmation by filibustering Barack Obama’s nominations. But it was within the power of the majority to rewrite the rule to eliminate the 60-vote rule. This was the “nuclear option,” so called because neither party wanted nuclear warfare in the Senate until all else failed. In November 2013, Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats who were then the majority, decided that all else had failed — and pushed the button. Mr. Obama’s nominees were confirmed by a simple majority.

When the Republicans regained the majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell kept Mr. Reid’s nuclear option and is using it now to break the Democratic threat of filibuster to deny President Trump’s nominees. He used it first to win confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s how he has won confirmation of five important Trump nominees to U.S. appeals courts: Stephanos Bibas to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court in Philadelphia, Joan Larsen to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati, Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court in Chicago; Allison Eid to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court in Denver, and Trevor McFadden to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

This brings the number of Mr. Trump’s confirmed judicial appointments to 13, more than those of his four immediate predecessors at the comparable point in their presidencies. But there are others. Forty-nine judicial nominees are waiting confirmation, and there are 98 vacancies waiting for an appointment. Most of the handful of Democrats who voted “aye” for these five nominees are up for re-election in states won last year by Mr. Trump.

Some Democrats, who didn’t complain when Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option, are unhappy now. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, with considerable chutzpah, says Mrs. Barrett’s “record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint.”

Marge Baker, a vice president of the People For the American Way, is already shuddering at the prospect of Leonard Steven Grasz, a former chief deputy attorney general of Nebraska, becoming a judge on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. She thinks Mr. Grasz won’t put aside his personal views as a federal judge. “This is someone who neutral observers agree would be a biased partisan in a black robe,” she says. Bias can sometimes be OK, but it has to be bias in the right direction.

What the Democrats are actually learning, to their pain and chagrin, is that what goes around comes around. That’s news all partisans can use.

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