Now that the election is over, a lot of people are talking about what it means for judicial nominations. With a Democratic majority ascendant in the Senate, commentators predict that the “politics of federal judge-picking” is in for a drastic change. After “govern[ing] unilaterally for six years,” President Bush now has two choices: cooperating with senators on both sides of the aisle to choose consensus nominees with bipartisan support, or continuing to “relentlessly pursue his court packing” by nominating ultraconservatives.
Some fear that the Bush administration will, ahem, stay the course when it comes to nominating deeply conservative judges. Sure, they know the odds for confirmation are small, but there are the other benefits: rallying the base for 2008 and painting the Democrats as obstructionists.
This certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility. Surely Bush will want to cement whatever legacy he can through his lifetime appointments, but he's already confirmed 255 out of 263 nominees--currently 32% of the federal judiciary. There aren't that many vacancies left to fill and it clearly wouldn't be the first time this administration has played politics with judges.
Of course, we'll probably have a pretty clear signal of the president's plans for the last two years of his term if he decides to resubmit six controversial appeals court candidates whose nominations were recently sent back to him by the Senate (William J. Haynes II, William G. Myers III, Terrence W. Boyle, Peter D. Keisler, Norman Randy Smith, and Michael B. Wallace). So, Mr. President, will it be “politics as usual,” or will your actions speak as loudly as your words when it comes to bipartisanship? We have our guesses, but we'll keep those to ourselves since we're trying to stay optimistic.