Next on the nomination chopping block...

President Bush has nominated his next bid for the Supreme Court - Samuel Alito.

And once again, all the stops are being pulled out to try to convince the American people that he's not a fundy nutbar, just like Roberts.

However, the extreme right have, it would seem, blown any chance of being able to realistically claim that any candidate is deserving of a straight up-or-down vote, after the savaging they gave Meirs.

For anyone unfamiliar: The President gets to nominate, but Congress votes on whether that person is appointed. A simple majority is required to pass a nomination. So, one can imagine, when one party controls Congress and the Presidency (as the Republicans now do), they can bash anyone through they want. The only option available to the minority party is called the filibuster. The rules of Congress state that a vote cannot be taken until the House has had a chance to debate it. So, in order to block a nomination, the minority party can simply keep on talking, refusing to yield the floor.

Now, the majority can stop a filibuster, but it's dangerous. First, someone needs to table the motion that filibustering in these circumstances is unconstitutional, in which case Congress votes. But it takes a two-thirds majority to pass the motion, so the majority party needs a really big gap to pull it off. Even then, they'd be well advised not to do it because the ruling is final and permanent, meaning that if the situation reverses itself at some future election, the previous majority now finds itself in the minority, but without the protection of the filibuster. Most parties would have to think long and hard before killing the filibuster on something as vital as Supreme Court nominations.

Yeah, it's complicated, but have you seen the British Parliament at all?

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