Skip to comments.7 GOP Senators Key in Filibuster Fight
Posted on 05/14/2005 1:57:34 PM PDT by FairOpinion
WASHINGTON - Seven Republican senators will determine the outcome of a showdown this week between the president and Congress and a minority within it over who is going to shape the federal courts.
Barring any unforeseen developments, these are the lawmakers in the make-or-break position when it comes to deciding whether to allow a Senate minority to block a president's nominees for the federal bench.
The senators are Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Warner of Virginia, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
At issue is an effort by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to ban judicial filibusters. The Senate's Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, wants the ability to block nominees for the Supreme Court and lower courts whom his party views as outside the legal mainstream.
The seven Republicans have not committed publicly to supporting either Senate leader.
All 44 Senate Democrats, joined by independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont and three Republicans, have said they oppose curtailing a Senate minority's ability to block the president's judicial nominees with just 41 votes in the 100-member Senate.
Frist, R-Tenn., has 45 of the Senate's 55 Republicans on his side.
During President Bush's first term, Democrats succeeding in blocking 10 of his judicial picks. Both Bush and First are making the case now that it should take only a simple majority 51 votes, rather than 60 now for a nominee to win confirmation for a lifetime appointment to a federal appeals court or the Supreme Court.
For Democrats to prevail, they need the support of three of the seven undecided Republicans. Frist needs five votes from five of those Republicans so Vice President Dick Cheney could have the chance to break a tie in favor of Bush's position.
Frist said Friday he will bring up the first of the blocked nominees Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judge Janice Rogers Brown this week.
Some of the seven Republicans, including Collins, have made up their mind but are not saying how they will vote. Warner and others say they have yet to decide and hope they will not have to.
"I'm always working on the issue," Warner said last week. "I'm hopeful the leaders can reach a compromise. I'm optimistic we can reach a compromise."
So far, only Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have broken party ranks, expressing concern about a change that could permanently reduce minority rights in the Senate. Vote counters in each party say Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine also is likely to side with Democrats.
Democrats insist there are other Republicans who support the Democratic position but do not want to say so publicly. Republicans note that all the other GOP senators who started out publicly uncommitted Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Richard Lugar of Indiana, for example now side with Frist.
Warner is the last of the powerful GOP "old bulls" in the Senate not to say he will join with Frist. Warner has said repeatedly that he worries that ending the judicial filibuster will weaken the Senate.
"I tend to be a traditionalist, and the right of unlimited debate has been a hallmark of the Senate since its inception," Warner said. "Without question, though, I am strongly opposed to the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominations."
Liberals and conservatives are focusing on Warner and other undecided Republicans through telephone calls, Internet campaigns and television advertisements.
Conservative groups such as Progress for America and Focus on the Family have spent millions of dollars on ads since mid-April in Alaska and elsewhere trying to persuade undecided Republican senators to support Frist.
Murkowski said those efforts have backfired with her.
"I was very offended at the tone," Murkowski said. "But they've continued, and it's been kind of interesting. I've probably gotten more positive feedback for my position, which Alaskans consider to be very thoughtful, very deliberate, about what is happening here in the Senate."
The liberal group People for the American Way says Murkowski is "the last defense against an attack on our Constitutional checks and balances."
"Alaska counts on Senator Murkowski to do the right thing. Now, the whole country is counting on her," according to an ad that the group plans to run this week. The $1 million television campaign also will mention Snowe and Collins in Maine and Specter in Pennsylvania.
DeWine sees power in not having committed to either side.
"I've decided. I just haven't announced it yet because I think that it's a good chance that we can get it worked out," DeWine said. "I'm hopeful that by not announcing it, I can help keep these negotiations going."
One option for the undecided senators could mean joining with Sen. Ben Nelson (news, bio, voting record), D-Neb. He is trying to convince 12 Republicans and Democrats that they should block Frist from banning judicial filibusters and also stop Reid from filibustering all of Bush's contentious nominees.
In the end, Murkowski said, the question has to be about the Senate, not politics, the president or the party.
"We have to remember that our decision has to be in the best interest of the institution as a whole," Murkowski said. "Not in the best interest of the Republicans, not in the best interest of the Democrats, but in the best interest of we as senators and the institution itself. I think that's what we should keep in mind."
What can they offer these Senators?
Let them offer a deal in which there is a cooling off period after the first cloture failure by a nominee. If the president brings the nominee back a 2nd time AFTER a "cooling off" period of 6 months, then at that point cloture must require only a majority vote instead of a super-majority.
What it boils down to is this. Rather than give ANY nominee an up or down vote, only those nominees the president INSISTS upon after debate and reflection MUST receive an up or down vote.
Or the "half-filibuster option."
To all these Republican fence-sitting senators... wake up or Mr. Rove will put the hammer down - RNC money will dry up, plumb committee posts will go to others, and all that pork will be redirected to those that care about this country's future.
The one thing I would do would be to sit these wafflers in a room and make them read the wacky decisions by the 9th Circuit.
No new news. Old news points to her voting with the DEMs on this.
26 Apr 2005
Olympia Snowe (Maine): Most GOP sources expect Snowe to eventually vote against the anti-filibuster plan. For now, she remains publicly undecided but leaning heavily toward opposition. "I don't think it's going to be any surprise about what I intend to do on this vote," she told the New York Times last week. Says a Snowe aide: "I think it's clear where she is."
Susan Collins (Maine): Collins is more of a wild card than Snowe, but also skeptical of Frist's plan. In her chief statement on the judicial crisis, Collins said Democrats have used the filibuster "unfairly" against many of President Bush's circuit court nominees. At the same time, she felt the so-called nuclear option would be a "mistake" and urged Frist "not to proceed with a rule change that will further poison the partisan atmosphere in the Senate to the point that we will not be able to conduct business."
Undecided Republicans Are Big Unknown
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2005; Page A04
Frist can lose only five Republicans, and three appear almost surely gone. Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) have condemned the proposed rule change so sternly that party leaders assume they will side with Democrats. Many Republicans also expect to lose Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), although she remains publicly uncommitted. Collins "believes that the filibuster has been overused but would like to see the situation resolved through negotiation rather than a rule change," her office said yesterday.
If Collins, Chafee, McCain and Snowe oppose the change, then Frist could suffer only one more GOP defection. Speculation hangs most heavily on Sens. John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.), all of whom say they are undecided.
It wouldn't be a good thing, but it hurts him (Frist) mostly, and the president as well. They'll be seen as weak. The Senate procedure stays status quo. I see the move as a "not much to lose" proposition, with a whole lotta upside.
Under Senate rules, even if 51 is officially quorum, you have to have all 100 accounted for.
I know they have to be accounted for, but quorum calls are only made when under 51 are on the floor.
QUORUM - ABSENT SENATORS MAY BE SENT FOR
- A quorum shall consist of a majority of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.
- No Senator shall absent himself from the service of the Senate without leave.
- If, at any time during the daily sessions of the Senate, a question shall be raised by any Senator as to the presence of a quorum, the Presiding Officer shall forthwith direct the Secretary to call the roll and shall announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without debate.
- Whenever upon such roll call it shall be ascertained that a quorum is not present, a majority of the Senators present may direct the Sergeant at Arms to request, and, when necessary, to compel the attendance of the absent Senators, which order shall be determined without debate; and pending its execution, and until a quorum shall be present, no debate nor motion, except to adjourn, or to recess pursuant to a previous order entered by unanimous consent, shall be in order.
barf alert! Hillary/McCain '08!
This much I can guarantee: if it comes down to Arlen's vote, he will vote against us. If Arlen determines for sure that hsi vote will not be decisive, he will make a big show of supporting the Party.
"Now weren't we told in 04 that we should support Specter because he is a Republican. Same goes for Collins and Murkowski. Alaska had a chance to elect a real conservative but they went with a RINO. And Sununu knocked off a real conservative and now we are questioning his loyalty. The Republican party is a total joke."
There's a bit wrong here.
First, it looks like Specter, Murkowski, and Sununu will all be supporting the nuclear option. (Though that still doesn't bring us over the finish line in the vote count).
Specter has done fine in his capacity as Judiciary Chair. He may stab the party in the back down the road -- but getting unconditional up-or-down votes for all nominees post-committee is imperative, and he seems to be (reluctantly) with us. Plus, he has made some good arguments on the Senate floor against Reid's insulting compromises, and has noted many of the Dems arguments refute each other.
Murkowski got to her stature due to her APPOINTMENT by her governor father. It's not as if she ran in an open primary, she was the incumbant (albeit unelected). I don't thing GOP party mechanics can be blamed.
Finally, the "real conservative" Sununu primaried in '02 supported Kerry for president in '04. I'd be curious to know if you were aware of that.
"Unless Frist is a total dummy,"
That is what we are trying to determine.
I hear you on that sentiment, but it rubs me the wrong way. The Senate has a Constitutional advice and consent rule for the president's Supreme Court nominees. For lesser judical offices, the Congress can legislate that the President appoint the officers directly. Point being, the Constitution doesn't demand a "hands on" role for the Senate for Circuit or District Court judges. The Senate is sticking its hands into the President's business much farther than it is empowered to.
I don't mind the Senate holding an advice and consent role for Cirucuit and District Court judges, but by golly, I think they have a duty to vote.
Could the Senate refuse to vote up or down on a treaty? Could it refuse to conduct an impeachment trial? The Constitution doesn't, after all, recite a duty to do either of those. It give the Senate the power. The only reasonable read is that where the power impacts other branches, with the power comes a duty to exercise it.
"How come the Democrats have zero trouble mustering monolithic support from their caucus when the chips are down, and those very same moments are the times when the GOP caucus goes to pieces?"
Something to do with Communism, which the Democratic party has segued into.
"There ought to be three Republicans in those states announcing a run for those seats. JUST a mere announcement(even if years away). Then the President should visit each of those states and merely have lunch with them and leave the state without even waving "HI" to the current RINOS. That might send a message."
If we had a President who would do that, we wouldn't be in this predicament.
Thought she was running with Gingrich...
We have retained the president's power to nominate AND to get an up or down vote. The advice of the Senate with the "half-filibuster option" would be that he think real hard on this one and then bring it back again if he's determined.
It preserves the vaunted "minority voice" AND it gives cover to Rino senators.
"Lieberman won't break ranks with the Dems. They have his FBI file and know where all his campaign money comes from."
Thye have each Senator's FBI file, don't they?
maybe a threesome!
that might be dangerous to the GOPs hopes.
Another pick hitlery might make for her VEEP is Obama. that would fire-up the leftist base even more, and his "charisma" might carry some "independent" sheeple.
You are dead wrong about Specter. Here is an email I circulated during the battle to deny Specter theJudidiary Chair:
In the Book, Passion for Truth, By Senator Arlen Specter with Charles Robbins (William Morrow, 2000) Specter explains the key to his thinking about the Supreme Court. (All page numbers cited in this article refer to this book.) Specter states that (p. 331-2) Borks theory essentially held that judges should not make law but should merely follow what was originally intended. In pure philosophical terms, Borks view that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was originally intended appeared to make sense, at least superficially. But the Constitution has turned out to be much more dynamic than that: a living, growing document, responsive to the needs of the nation.
Borks narrow approach is dangerous for constitutional government in America. Without adherence to original intent, Bork said, there was no legitimacy for judicial decisions.
The Constitution has indeed been a living, growing document, responsive to the needs of the nation. Not in the childish manner that Specter conceives, as an excuse for the Supreme Court to invent any law it wants to, but as the founders intended, via the lawful amendment process set forth in the Constitution itself.
A few pages later (p. 334), Specter gets near to the heart of how Liberals like himself want to use the Supreme Court to transform America. I was troubled by Borks writing and testimony that expanding rights to minorities reduced the rights of majorities. By that thinking, giving a criminal defendant Miranda warnings deprives the police of a confession, which might put a criminal back on the street to harm the majority. While perhaps arithmetically sound, it seemed morally wrong. The [law abiding] majority in a democracy can take care of itself, while individuals and minorities often cannot [referring in the case of Miranda to the minority of people in America that are criminals].
This is about as coherent as can be expected for an argument that supports Liberalism and the Left Wing agenda. However, the notion that it is within the realm of Republican Party thinking is absurd.
Finally, Specter comes to the crux of the matter (p. 337). The story of America is the story of decency and fairness, with the Supreme Court as the guarantor. Robert Bork displayed little grasp of that. After Brown v. Board of Education, nobody could argue in favor of segregated schools. But you dont get to Brown via original intent. You get there via evolving notions of decency and fairness.
Evolving notions of decency and fairness have indeed been central to American history. The Democrat canard is that the origin of these notions has been Supreme Court actions. Brown v. Board of Education (or any other Supreme Court action) was not the start of the movement away from segregation in the United States in the 1950s. While a book could be written on this subject, one example will suffice, from the website, The Beginnings of a New Era for African-Americans in the Armed Forces http://korea50.army.mil/history/factsheets/afroamer.shtml.
Changes in the United States, the growth of black political power and the U.S. Defense Departments realization that African Americans were being underutilized because of racial prejudice led to new opportunities for African-Americans serving in the Korean War. In October 1951, the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment, a unit established in 1869, which had served during the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the beginning of the Korean War, was disbanded, essentially ending segregation in the U.S. Army.
The Korean War ended in 1953. Brown v. Board of Education was 1954. The Supreme Court did not start American societys impulse away from segregation; it was not the motive force behind the trend toward decency and fairness in American life.
Nor has it, over the sweep of history, been so. The Supreme Court did not help, but rather hindered, the freeing of slaves in the U.S. In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks -- slaves as well as free -- were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permitting slavery in all of the country's territories. (This from Dred Scott Case: the Supreme Court Decision, at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933.html.) The Supreme Court, in this instance, played a retrograde role. Four years later (1861), the nation began a bloody Civil War that ultimately ended slavery in the U.S. This was done via the 13th Amendment, without the aid of the Supreme Court. Nor did the Supreme Court help women get the vote in America. This was done via the 19th Amendment. Hence it was the legislatures of the United States, both State and Federal, that gave women the right to vote and freed the slaves---legislatures that Specter finds inadequate. He would sweep aside the legislatures, and the rest of the framework of the Constitution, traded for an all-powerful Supreme Court held in check by nothing but its conscience.
Specter, with his background as a lawyer, has promoted himself as something of an expert in this area. Here is an example of his reasoning. Ultimately (p. 339) my view was that original intent cannot guide constitutional law very much. I suggested another standard, quoting Frankfurter, whom Bork had characterized as one of the stars of the Supreme Court. Frankfurter had quoted Cardozo on fundamental values and used the phrase tradition and conscience in his opinion in Rochin v. California, in which the Supreme Court suppressed evidence pumped from the defendants stomach. Again, the story of America and constitutional law is the story of decency. Original intent and legislative talent [the legislature itself], I told Bork, only take you so far, and beyond that you can rely on Cardozo or Frankfurter to effectuate the values and the tradition of the people without being able to pull out a specific constitutional right.
Dont misunderstand me, as a representative of the say anything to reach the Leftist agenda Left, Specter is an effective representative and I understand why Democrats in Pennsylvania consistently vote for him and why the Democratic leadership nationwide supports him. I just do not buy the idea that a person who votes for him to Chair the Judiciary Committee can call himself a Republican.