History Lesson: On Judicial Nominations, GOP Must Punish Democrats For Decades Of Unprecedented Escalations [Watch]

Guy Benson, Townhall

Monday marked one of the most partisan days in the history of the United States Senate. As the body's judiciary committee trudged through the process of voting to advance the nomination of an eminently qualified jurist to the full chamber for consideration, strictly along party lines, reports emerged that Democrats had secured the 41 votes necessary to sustain the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in US history. This unprecedented escalation will almost certainly force Republicans to follow in the footsteps of a previous unprecedented escalation from Democrats, changing the Senate rules to do away with the 60-vote filibuster threshold for all presidential nominees. This partisan denouement represents an inevitable culmination of decades of bare-knuckled one-upsmanship in which Democrats have been the aggressors at nearly every turn. Tracing the current state of play back to one single moment or controversy may be difficult, but many would argue that it began with an astoundingly acerbic and demagogic 1987 floor speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy, who once killed a woman, against President Reagan's nominee to the High Court, Robert Bork.

A pitched battle ensued, led by liberal Democrats, with Bork ultimately being defeated. During the term of President George H.W. Bush, the Left tried to replicate their character assassination playbook against Clarence Thomas, who was subjected to an extremely nasty and personal confirmation fight. He was eventually confirmed 52-48, the closest margin in more than 100 years. By contrast, President Clinton's judicial nominees were confirmed at a higher rate than his predecessor's, and neither of his picks for the Supreme Court faced any serious opposition. Even uber-liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was set to alter the make-up of the Court by replacing a significantly more conservative justice, was approved by an overwhelming 96-3 margin. Even after the ugliness and vitriol of Democrats' treatment of Bork and Thomas, the GOP did not answer in kind.

But when President George W. Bush took office in the early 2000's, Senate Democrats decided to push the envelope again. For the first time in history, they filibustered a number of majority-supported Bush nominees to circuit- and district-level courts. The most egregious example of this obstructionism targeted a exceptionally qualified nominee named Miguel Estrada. While colluding with left-wing interest groups, Democrats literally spelled out in a memo that part of the reason they chose to blockade Estrada was because of his race. As a Latino, they worried, he could be groomed into a prime candidate for an eventual Supreme Court slot; better to kill his prospects as early as possible. They filibustered him for years, ultimately resulting in his decision to withdraw his name from consideration -- a disgraceful episode in which Democrats succeeded in convincing a willing press corps to ignore their extreme partisanship and shameful racial politics, and to instead focus on the "scandal" of who had leaked their internal memos. 

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