by John Hawkins | July 5, 2005 3:14 am
A lot of conservatives are gearing up for a public relations battle to support Bush’s nominee (as long as it’s not Gonzales). While that’s all well and good, this isn’t the same sort of fight Republicans had on their hands with Bork or Thomas.
Back when Bork was voted down and Thomas had so much trouble getting confirmed, Democrats controlled the Senate. Today, Republicans are in charge by a large margin, 55-44-1.
Get the picture?
While it would be great to have some Democrats on board when Bush’s nominee is confirmed, Republicans can shove through Bush’s selection whether the Democrats like it or not.
Moreover, while it’s certainly important to defend Bush’s nominee from the Democratic onslaught that’s sure to come, this isn’t just about selling the public on Bush’s selection. After all, Bush won in 2000 and 2004 while promising to appoint Justices like Scalia and Thomas to the Supreme Court. So, even if the poll numbers for a Bush nominee take a temporary dip because of the left’s upcoming propaganda blitz, the last two presidential elections have already proven Bush has the support he needs from the public to choose a conservative judge.
…..Which brings us to the real problem area (assuming Bush doesn’t make the biggest mistake of his presidency by selecting Alberto Gonzales): the squishy Republicans in the Senate on this issue. That would include the “gang of 7,” John McCain, Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Lincoln Chaffee, John W. Warner, & Olympia Snowe. You also have to watch wimpy RINO Arlen Specter and Trent Lott who helped set up the whole compromise over the nuclear option.
The good news is that all of these candidates are going to be inclined to vote for Bush’s nominee and that the chatter on the “Washington street” seems to indicate that a filibuster would lead to the trigger being pulled on the nuclear option. From the Seattle Times:
“A bipartisan agreement signed six weeks ago by seven Democrats and seven Republicans says a judicial nominee would be filibustered only in “extraordinary circumstances.” Several of those senators said yesterday that a nominee’s philosophical views could not amount to “extraordinary circumstances,” and therefore a filibuster could be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character.
That could be very important because it’s entirely possible we could see a filibuster:
“Earlier this week, Frist said he hoped the agreement by the 14 senators had placed the filibuster and nuclear option “back in their cages.”
But Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, one of the seven Democrats in the deal, warned that if Bush names a “very, very conservative nominee” and didn’t seek advice from the Senate, some of the seven Democrats could view that as an “extraordinary circumstance” that would trigger a filibuster.”
So, what it really comes down to is making sure that 4 out of 9 Republican Senators vote with the other 46 reliable votes whether it’s for the nominee (which is very likely) or — if it comes to that — the nuclear option (which is an open question).
Now if sweet reason works, if the necessary number of Senators can be convinced that getting a conservative justice on the court is vitally important to the base and to conservatism, wonderful.
If not, then the President and Bill Frist should use every bit of leverage within their power to steamroll them. Deny them fundraisers, cut off their money from the RNC, take their committee chairmanships, try to kill programs and pork that benefit their states — in other words, be absolutely ruthless and do anything and everything within the law to bring them around.
This is worth going to the mat over, it’s worth hard feelings; heck, if a Republican Senator had to be politically damaged so badly that it cost him an election in 2006 just to set an example, it would be worth it if we managed to kill the judicial filibuster and get a conservative justice on the SCOTUS. So if there has ever been a time for Republican Senators to toe the line or get politically buried under it, this is it!
*** Update #1 ***: Lindsey Graham is sending up a few smoke signals and it sounds like he’s going the right way:
“Meanwhile, conservative Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said on Fox that only an ethical problem should stop a Bush nominee.
“To me, it’d have to be a character problem, an ethics problem, some allegation about the qualifications of the person, not an ideological bent, given what we’ve done in the past,” he said.”
John Warner on the other hand, is aping Democratic rhetoric which isn’t a good sign:
“The president, Warner said, “can step forward and be a uniter, not a divider, in this nomination by selecting someone that will gain the confidence of the majority of Americans; that will enable the two sides here to remove the center aisle, and that we can join [behind] in a bipartisan way and give strong ratification,” according to a transcript provided by the senator’s office.”
Olympia Snowe seems to be indicating that she’ll be voting with the Democrats:
“”We have to make sure we don’t lose the balance on the court,” Snowe said. “Sandra Day O’Connor was a moderate thinker and jurist. We need that.”
Snowe said she will look less at the person’s political leanings and more at how they approach questions of legal precedent. “You don’t want someone on the Supreme Court overturning decades of precedent,” she said.
“Obviously, (reproductive) choice is teetering in the balance,” she said. “That’s a very important issue for me. Roe v. Wade has been the precedent for the better part of three decades. Would (the nominee) be predisposed to upholding precedent?”
Believe it or not, I’m encouraged by this non-confrontational quote from John McCain:
“Senator John McCain, a potential Republic candidate to succeed Mr Bush as president, said of Ms O’Connor: “She did make history.”
“I am confident that President Bush will appoint a Supreme Court justice who shares his philosophy, which is a conservative philosophy,” Mr McCain told CNN.”
Here’s more from McCain:
“”We only made an agreement with seven of them — seven Democrats and seven Republicans — so it’s their view that matters, not that of, in all due respect, their more liberal colleagues,” McCain said. ”I believe that the president will send over a very good, strong conservative, but not somebody that would meet that criteria [of extraordinary circumstances].”
Again, given that McCain is such a crapweasel, I may be reading too much into this — but — but — I’m thinking he’s saying that ideology isn’t going to count as “extraordinary circumstances.” If so, you can add him in with Graham as Vote #2 to kill a filibuster.
So are we set? After seeing this ridiculous slander of Judge Bork by Arlen Specter, I’d have to say, ” no,” given that what most conservatives want is another Bork:
“Mr. Specter, appearing earlier on that program and several others, brought Mr. Bork up repeatedly. “I’ve been criticized a lot for questioning Judge Bork in one session for an hour and a half,” Mr. Specter said, defending his criticism of Judge Bork’s emphasis on the “original intent” of the Constitution’s framers. “If his ‘original intent’ stood, we’d still be segregating the United States Senate with African-Americans on one side and Caucasians on the other side.”
Ok, Rick Santorum and W., who put this guy over the top against Pat Toomey, I hope you’re happy we’ve got this guy running the Senate Judiciary Committee during a crucial time. Oh, and Hugh Hewitt and the rest of the conservatives who bent over backwards to help make this third rate RINO the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee: I hope you didn’t make a terrible mistake when you went to bat for Specter.
In any case, Specter might vote — I say might — vote against the nominee (remember, he did vote for Thomas and Scalia), but perhaps he wouldn’t vote against the nuclear option since that would be practically guaranteed to cost him his precious chairmanship. Still, you never know with a weak-kneed milksop like Specter…
I’m still looking for quotes from Chaffee, Lott, DeWine, & Collins. But, on the upside, Lott supposedly wants to be Majority Leader again. I seriously don’t think that’ll happen, but if it’s true, he’ll vote the right way. After all, you don’t become majority leader by selling out a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court. DeWine seemed awfully defensive after the “gang of 14” deal and I’m inclined to think he’ll pull the trigger on the nuclear option if the Dems filibuster as well. Collins and Chaffee, they’re both “weak reeds,” and are as likely to vote with the Democrats as not.
Still, reading the tea leaves here, my first guess would be that Lott, McCain, DeWine, and Graham would vote for the nuclear option and just about any conservative Bush puts up. Along with the 46 other reliable votes, I’m seeing the magical number there to get a candidate confirmed or for the nuclear option. Of course, any razor thin margin that includes McCain can never be considered to be reliable, but so far, so good. It’s up to W. and Frist to solidify those 50 votes and to start padding the numbers just in case a Senator pulls a “Voinovich” and changes his mind at the last minute…
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