Some Republican senators have taken a lot of flak from the party's right wing base for their membership in the Senate’s Gang of Fourteen – a group of fourteen moderate Democrats and Republicans that brokered a "compromise" on the filibuster stand-off in May 2005. The Gang's compromise -- which allowed the use of the filibuster only under "extraordinary circumstances" -- provided for the immediate confirmation of three ultraconservative judicial nominees (and paved the way for the subsequent confirmation of President Bush's two Supreme Court nominees). Some speculate that Senator DeWine's membership in the Gang cost him conservative support in the last election. Now, for another one of these senators, his involvement in the Gang of Fourteen may have serious political costs.
Patrick Healy of The New York Times discussed potential Republican presidential candidates in an article this week , observing that John McCain “betrayed [conservatives] on issues like federal judicial appointments.” We're pretty sure he's referring to McCain’s involvement in the Gang of Fourteen, as McCain has consistently voted in support of President Bush’s ultra-conservative nominees. But the Gang succeeded in getting some of the president’s most conservative nominees appointed to lifetime positions on the federal courts of appeals and Supreme Court. So what more does the Republican party base want?
Meanwhile, Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, who has a moderate record on many social issues, paid obeisance to the right by promising to nominate “strict constructionist” judges (which is of course, code for judges who subscribe to the right's legal philosophy).
The message is clear. The right intends to exact concessions to its agenda from anyone who wants the Republican Party nomination.
Clearly, the judges issue is a hot one for the Republican primaries--the Healy article also takes note of the “solid conservative credentials” of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), who opposed judicial nominee Janet Neff simply because of her attendance at a neighbor’s lesbian commitment ceremony. We have to say, talking about judges is vitally important and we hope to see both sides, Republican and Democrat, making this part of the national debate. Americans need to start thinking about the importance of judicial nominees and how the makeup of the federal bench impacts every aspect of American life.