Skip to comments.Santorum reads nuke polls, applies the brakes
Posted on 04/21/2005 6:51:36 AM PDT by wjersey
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a leading advocate of the nuclear option to end the Democrats filibuster of judicial nominees, is privately arguing for a delay in the face of adverse internal party polls.
Details of the polling numbers remain under wraps, but Santorum and other Senate sources concede that, while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster, the figures show that most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate.
The Republicans are keeping the nuclear poll numbers secret, whereas they have often in the past been keen to release internal survey results that favor the party. David Winston, head of the Winston Group, which conducts Senate GOP polls, did return phone calls seeking comment.
Confirming public disquiet over the nuclear or constitutional option, Santorum said, Our polling shows that. But, he added, public thinking had been muddied by what he called false Democratic arguments that checks and balances were being eroded.
People see checks and balances as Democrats checking Republicans, not the legislative checking the executive or the judiciary checking the legislative, Santorum said. Filibustering presidential nominees was not something the Founding Fathers envisioned as a tool for balancing power between the branches, he argued. In other words, Democrats have managed to convince the public of their right to check Republicans in the Senate.
Santorums raising of reasons that Republicans should delay the constitutional option may surprise conservative activists who count him as one of the most passionate advocates for the tactic in the Senate.
There is no doubt that Santorum was the backbone of this from the very beginning, and he continues to be, said Manuel Miranda, head of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters, an alliance of more than 200 conservative groups working on the judges issue.
Many Republicans and conservative activists had thought the Senate GOP leadership would trigger the tactic next week to end the judicial filibuster. The nominees considered most appropriate for such a historic procedural maneuver, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, are expected to be discharged from the Judiciary Committee later this week.
Conservative activists said they received word last week to ramp up their communication efforts on the constitutional option with the goal of having their activity peak next week, before the May recess. Also last week, a New York Times report citing senior Senate lawmakers bolstered the expectation that the showdown would happen next week.
Santorum said he has left the timing to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Ive been suggesting one way or the other we need to make a decision. I havent said [a] longer or shorter timeframe should be followed, he said.
But GOP aides said Santorum has made known to the leadership reasons for why Republicans should not move forward on the nuclear or constitutional option.
He was concerned that too many things are competing in the same area and you couldnt get a clean shot at it, a GOP aide said. The aide cited the fallout from congressional Republicans intervening in a Florida courts decision to remove Terri Schiavos feeding tube and the subsequent controversy caused by House Majority Leader Tom DeLays (R-Texas) statement that the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.
Democrats portrayed that statement as an incitement against judges, and it resulted in a spate of media critiques of DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who made a speech on the Senate floor raising the question of why judges are targets of violence.
Senate and House Democrats have woven the Republican intervention in the Schiavo issue, DeLays statement about judges who declined to save her life, and GOP consideration of the nuclear option into a broad message that Republicans are abusing power. John Boltons stalled nomination to become U.N. ambassador has also become a distraction.
Theres not a clean slate and backdrop for the nuclear option, a GOP aide said, summarizing Santorums observations. But while Santorum is saying too many things are competing in the same realm, others are saying they highlight the issue of judges by demonstrating how the makeup of the judiciary affects national debates, for example.
Another GOP aide said Santorum is less concerned with the fallout from the Schiavo case than with addressing several more items on the legislative agenda before Democrats tie the Senate in knots, as they have threatened to retaliate against a rule change.
Theres important business our guys have to get out of the way, the aide said, adding, Our guys want to give every chance for some negotiated compromise to be explored to avoid gridlock.
Santorum said, We have a lot of work to get done.
But the aide denied that the messaging environment is giving Republicans second thoughts about the nuclear or constitutional option. Republicans would craft their message to their actions, not their actions to a poll-tested message, the aide added.
But GOP polling shows that Americans have swallowed the Democrats and liberal groups message on the constitutional option, the sources say.
If anything is bad, it is that the American public has bought the misinformation campaign that were trying to take away the filibuster, the aide said. The campaign has caused misinformation, and thats where we have a messaging challenge.
It's just reality.
And the reality is this. Republicans are going to be the Minority. I hope they are prepared for the bloodbath in '06. No action, no vote, no Majority, no re-election.
Most Americans are woefully ignorant on how government is supposed to work.
Another excuse to be spineless.
I think The Hill might be off base here.
Let's see how next week develops.
Just bring back the real filibuster.
You can delay a vote, but you have to keep talking.
"We are restoring a great tradition of the Senate"
Hey Rick. Looking out for yourself again?
No guts. No glory. No gonads.
I am very much afraid you are correct.
The Republican Party once again has squandered the Golden Opportunity given to it by the voters.
You are 100% correct.
I refuse to vote for spineless people.
Rick Santorum is morphing into Bob Dole, without the combat decorations. I'm sick of his wishy washy carcass!
I am shocked that the polling came out this way. Afterall, the Dems have been hitting this issue hard, constantly putting their spin on it. In vigorous response the Republicans have been. . .(insert crickets here). Seriously, the Republicans have to hit this issue harder than just assuming everyone will see it there way. I think they are starting to do this now, i.e. sending Thune and others out to spread the word. But, once again I have to ask, where is the President on this one?
Playing a prevent defense is the surest way to lose.
Correction, Republicans ARE the minority now, 2006 will just make it official.
Another GOP pro-life cut and run like Schiavo law.
Santorum lost his gonads when he got re-elected the first time.
There ARE good Republicans in the Senate (Coburn, Inhofe) and even more in the House (Pence, Chabot), but unfortunately for the most part they aren't in positions of influence.
We should start preparing to get our A$$es kicked in 2008 if we don't watch out! Republican Congress Critters are getting tooo sure of themselves and lazy! NOT A GOOD SIGN!