Judicial filibusters and the Gang of Fourteen

Will Snowe, Collins, Graham, and McCain stick to their asserted principles, or toe the party line?

If Jon Kyl carries out his threat to filibuster Obama’s judicial nominees he’ll put some of his colleagues in a tricky position. Graham, Snowe, Collins, and McCain were all members of the Gang of Fourteen, whose statement said “Nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances.”

Yes, as a deal the Gang of Fourteen agreement applied only to the 109th Congress. But the whole premise of the exercise was that there was something nefarious about filibustering judicial nominations, justifying the Republican threat to invoke the (un)”Constitutional option” (i.e., cheat by having the Vice President make a false ruling and then voting to sustain that ruling).

Assuming that Franken loses but that Lieberman votes as a Democrat on judicial filibusters, Obama would need only two of the four to do the right thing, even if Lugar and Specter voted the party line. And it seems unlikely that Obama will present them with very attractive filibuster targets. So I think there’s reason for optimism that Obama will get his way.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com