April 14, 2005

DeLay backs down a bit about judges.

"I believe in an independent judiciary. I repeat, of course I believe in an independent judiciary," DeLay said.

At the same time, he added, the Constitution gives Congress power to oversee the courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said.

It's true, there are congressional checks on the judiciary, but we expect you to exercise them responsibly. The really effective congressional check, however, is the Senate's power to confirm. DeLay, not being in the Senate, is left to chatter about impeachment (ridiculous), the "power of the purse" (underfund the courts? that's just destructive), and cutting back jurisdiction (show me the proposal and I'll comment). In short, he's just saber-rattling, or as I prefer to call it "purse swinging." I know he's hot to keep some sort of Schiavo-momentum going. But the serious debate about judges is the one going on in the Senate.

UPDATE: And here's the NYT front-page article on DeLay and the judiciary. The subheading in the paper NYT is "Unyielding, DeLay Steps Up Attacks on Judiciary Over Schiavo Case." So what is it -- backing down or stepping up? I see the Times is also calling it his "crusade against judges" -- leveraging religion into the prose. Here's how the Times presents the material that was in the AP article linked above:
"Of course I believe in an independent judiciary," [DeLay] said. He also apologized for the impeachment comment, even as he insisted it was well within the purview of Congress to rein in the courts.

"Sometimes I get a little more passionate," Mr. DeLay said, "particularly during the moment and the day that Terri Schiavo was starved to death. Emotions were flowing."

"I said something in an inartful way," he added, "and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize. I apologize for saying it that way. It was taken wrong, and I didn't explain or clarify my remarks as I'm clarifying them here."

Mr. DeLay was not specific about what legislative changes, if any, he would like to see emerge from the Judiciary Committee's review. But in announcing that he had asked Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and the committee chairman, to examine the actions of federal judges in the Schiavo case, Mr. DeLay said the House had previously passed legislation limiting the jurisdiction of the courts and breaking up the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a bill that died in the Senate.

"We set the jurisdiction of the courts," Mr. DeLay said. "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts."

I think he's backing down. And note how bereft of ideas about legislative changes he is.


Alcibiades said...

I think you have to be careful of your conclusion there. Perhaps DeLay is bereft of ideas about directions for legislative change, or perhaps he is unwilling to be expansive about this theme to the Times, a newspaper that reviles him and, one must assume he is aware, whose editorial board would be thrilled beyond measure to help take him down.

I think a more temperate conclusion is that the NYTimes is happy to promote the notion that Tom DeLay is bereft of ideas. And the author wrote the piece in a way that will point you at just that conclusion without coming out and saying it point blank.

As for DeLay, whatever else you think of him, he would have to be an idiot to announce his strategy on this point (assuming he has one) to the NYTimes before he has found support for it. All this would do is provide them with lots of advance time to begin undermining the position in their articles and editorial pages.

Ann Althouse said...

Alcibiades: I drew my conclusion before I read the Times coverage. Look at my original post before the update. This reminds me a little of Bush and Social Security -- seeming to be already doing something and then when people criticize it, insisting that you haven't even said what the proposal is yet.

Patrick said...

I don't quite know how to take your "ridiculous" in response to the notion of impeachment. If you meant it in the specific context of Svhiavo, I completely agree. If you were referring to the whole idea of impeaching judges for deciding cases contrary to the Constitution or the laws, I'm not so sure. If I recall correctly, Madison in The Federalist sold the Constitution to New York in part by arguing that the Congress could act against the judiciary in just that way.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we expect them to be exercised responsibly. But we do expect them to be exercised!

Harkonnendog said...

I guess your view on this subject depends upon whether or not you think the judiciary has already overstepped its bounds. And whether or not it has been too immune from criticism. Personally, when I compare the treatment the judiciary gets compared to that of the executive and the legislative I think the judiciary needs be taken down a peg or two, or three. Surely all branches should be open game for heavy criticism. A judge is just a lawyer who played politics well... why should the be immune?