Congratulations to Priscilla Owen, whose confirmation to the 5th circuit court of appeals yesterday gave the lie to the position her opponents have held for four long years: 

“’The sky did not fall when the clerk called the roll; the earth did not stop rotating on its axis when we stood up and voted. A supremely qualified nominee received the up-or-down vote she deserved, and a bipartisan majority voted to confirm her nomination,’ said Senator John Cornyn, who added that the vote is ‘something we could have done four years ago.'”

The Owens confirmation is a good thing, but the compromise that prevented Republicans from ending filibusters on judicial nominations may serve merely to delay the showdown. It may occur when something even greater, a Supreme Court nomination, hangs in the balance.

The Democrats established a right to filibuster under “extraordinary circumstances,” and as George Will notes, what constitutes that is open to discussion:

“The infinitely elastic phrase ’extraordinary circumstances’ may have various meanings when the issue is filling a Supreme Court vacancy. If the vacancy is occasioned by the retirement of a conservative justice, the phrase may mean that Democrats will find nothing ‘extraordinary’ in President Bush’s nomination of someone like Judge Michael McConnell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, whose many impressive opinions and other writings are broadly respected, if disagreed with, by most occupants of those faculty lounges.

“But what if the issue is replacing a liberal — say, Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 85 — and thereby changing the complexion of a closely divided court? Then Democrats may suddenly discover the charms of natural law theory and announce that a ‘balanced’ court is ordained by the laws of nature and nature’s God, so the nomination of even a mainstream conservative jurist would constitute an ’extraordinary circumstance.’”

Whatever you think about the deal, Peggy Noonan is hilarious today on the “moderates” who made it. The column is headlined, “Mr. Narcissus Goes to Washington“:

“You’ve heard the mindless braying and fruitless arguments, but I’m here to tell you the facts, no matter what brickbats and catcalls may come my way. Lindsey Graham defied the biases of his constituency to do what was right, not what was easy. Robert Byrd put aside personal gain to save our Republic. David Pryor ignored the counsels of hate to stand firm for our hopes and dreams. Mike DeWine protected our way of life. These men are uniters, not dividers.

“How do I know?

“Because they told me. Again and again, and at great length, as they announced The Deal…”