The “Extraordinary Circumstances” Of The McCain, Graham Filibuster Vote

It came as no surprise when Republicans attempted to filibuster the nomination of David Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday considering that Sen. Jeff Sessions announced weeks ago that he intended to do so, depsite having opposed the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees when President Bush was in office. Sessions’ effort was supported by a gaggle of right-wing activists who likewise opposed the filibuster when it was used against Bush’s nominees, but suddenly abandoned their supposedly deeply-help and principled opposition to this sort of “unconstitutional” use of the filibuster. 

But most surprisingly about the vote, which failed 70-29, was that two Republican members of the so-called “Gang of 14” which worked out an agreement to prevent Senate Republicans from deploying the “nuclear option” back in 2005 joined Sessions and other Republicans in trying to filibuster Hamilton: John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

The Gang of 14 agreement stated:

Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

And when it was announced, Graham hailed it as a significant step in ending the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees:

“The American people won tonight. The Senate is back in business. And I truly believe future judicial nominees will be treated better because of this agreement.”

“The agreement allows up or down votes on deserving nominees and gives the Senate a chance to start over regarding future nominees. It’s my hope both sides have learned from their mistakes and we can get back to the traditional way of doing business when it comes to judges.

“One of the major elements of the deal makes clear that if one of my seven Democratic colleagues decides to filibuster in the future because of an “extraordinary circumstance,” I retain the right to vote for a rules change. It’s my hope we never get to that point.

“With better communication and a spirit of putting the country ahead of ourselves, I believe we can avoid future filibusters.

McCain likewise praised the agreement:

I feel the long-term implications are that if this succeeds, then perhaps we will see other coalitions, not necessarily this one but other coalitions, that will join together and try to work for the good of the country. I don’t believe that of the 14 of us that any of us had any other ambition than to try to prevent the Senate from going over a precipice.

Apparently McCain and Graham joined the Gang of 14 in order to prevent Senate Republicans from nuking the filibuster while ensuring the confirmation of several of President Bush’s most controversial nominees … just so they could try to use the filibuster against President Obama’s very first Circuit Court nominee.

What exactly were the “extraordinary circumstances” in the Hamilton nomination that compelled Graham and McCain to attempt a filibuster after participating in and praising the Gang of 14 agreement as a way for the Senate to “avoid future filibusters”?