A Filibuster Of Bush’s Next Nominee? Doubt it.

Here’s a fascinating nugget from Robert Novak:

“According to Senate sources, Democratic Leader Harry Reid has informed Majority Leader Bill Frist that Federal Appeals Court Judge Priscilla Owen will be filibustered if President Bush names her to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.

Republican senators are divided on whether former Texas Supreme Court Justice Owen is vulnerable because she underwent a filibuster for the appellate seat and was confirmed under the compromise agreement. Frist is known to believe Owen can be confirmed in the face of a filibuster.

Republican Senate strategists believe Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the only possible Bush nominee to replace O’Connor who would not face a filibuster.”

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Could it be that the Democrats are just putting out the word that they’ll filibuster Gonzales because they want to trick Bush into nominating his buddy, thereby betraying his base in an unforgivable way and committing political suicide? On the other hand, could it be that Reid is just trying to warn Republicans off of Owen because he knows she would be confirmed and the Democrats would look particularly treacherous if they tried to filibuster her since she was one of the judges explicitly passed through during the “gang of 14” compromise? In any case, I can’t imagine a filibuster succeeding at this point because the nuclear option would shut it down.

To begin with, there would have been 48 Republican votes for the nuclear option last time and they should all still be there.

Some people have suggested that Arlen Specter, who was not part of the gang of 14, might vote against the nuclear option this time. However, given how desperately Specter campaigned to get that Judiciary Committee Chairmanship over strident conservative objections, it’s hard to see him just throwing that away — and make no mistake, that’s exactly what he would be doing by voting against the nuclear option.

From there, we move on to the 7 Republican members of the gang of 14. DeWine, Graham, and McCain have all as much as said that they’d vote for the nuclear option if the Dems filibustered and John Warner has at least noted that he considers the nuclear option to still be on the table.

It’s hard to be sure about Warner, but Graham has bent over backwards to give the impression that he’ll vote for the nuclear option if need be. Mike DeWine is also highly likely to vote for the nuclear option because he was politically damaged by his previous vote and going the other way again would probably cost him enough Republican support to keep him from getting reelected in 2006. Same goes for McCain’s presidential aspirations in 2008. Conservatives wouldn’t even consider selecting a nominee in 2008 who teamed up with the Democrats to block a Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown.

Even Lincoln Chafee may be afraid of the consequences of going the wrong way this time. Chafee is going to be facing a tough primary challenge from Cranston, R.I., Mayor Stephen Laffey and voting with the Democrats this time around could cost the Senator his seat.

What this means is that there looks to be at least 51-53 votes for the nuclear option. Given that, Bush has the freedom to select anyone he wants without worrying too much about a filibuster, Owen included.

If W’s smart, he will appease his grumbling base with a pick that will produce a lot of enthusiasm on the right. While Roberts was widely supported on the right, his short track record made some conservatives downright hostile to him and left many others less excited than they should have been.

This time around, Bush needs to select a nominee with an excellent conservative pedigree AND a long track record so there will be no doubts in anyone’s mind about where he or she will stand. That may infuriate the Democrats (What else is new?), but it will also fire up a base that isn’t particularly happy with Bush at the moment. Bush is going to have a big opportunity here and he will likely regret it for the rest of his tenure in the White House if he doesn’t take full advantage of it.

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