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.
Inhofe is one of my favorites. He'd be a great Majority Leader.....
You guys keep doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expect a different result.
If you want to get something different, you are going to have to DO something different.
Polls are not an excuse, 'k? We all have been around long enough to know how meaningless these polls are. It's nothing but a weak excuse for them not to do their job.
The base made their voice known election day. They voted on paper ballots in the ultimate poll to fix the filibusters against nominees. Everything else is meaningless.
Come '06 we'll make our votes known again, and they will pay for their cowardice.
The GOP will probably enact controverisal measure too late, when it become an emergency, and it'll still be fresh on the voter's minds (due to the media accomplices on the left).
- Author Unknown (but obviously someone who was familiar with Republican Senators)
They want to be the Minority, we'll give them what they want. They can kiss their perks goodbye. They are going to be sent packing back home to their states.
Its funny how a poll is a deterrent to decisiveness. I am sorry but between the judges, SS reform and John Bolton but the Republicans can blame only themselves. As for Santorum, he has definitely seemed wishy washy lately
Agree, totally. In fact, they've already waited too long.
I wonder what "debate" they are referring to.
If Republicans can't muster up any courage and continue to stick their fingers in the wind, then I predict they won't see what hit them in '06. You can bank on the fact many that conservatives will just sit this one out.
Here's the bottom line: The clock is ticking on the Bush presidency. Democrats are trying to run out the clock until they can declare Bush officially as a lame duck and say, with a straight face, that the Senate should now wait until the next election to select judges. While the clock continue to run, Republicans scurry around not knowing what to do and worrying what the NYTimes will say.
Ya know what? No nominees, no judges, and NO VOTE in '06.
Let the Dems take over. If Republicans can't lead, they don't deserve to be in office. I am sick and tired of Republicans who are afraid of their own shadow, while Democrats get away with murder and seem unafraid of it.
Hubris? I know of only one side that uses that word in definition of this President. Sure you are on the right site?
The President isn't sinking.
The Republican Majority is sinking. It's sinking because the cowards we elected in Congress can not get their act together and govern as the Majority.
I sadly have to agree.
The Republicans are spineless. they have the Presidency and both houses of Congress and are squandering the opportunity. During the election we all banded together, but the Republicans seem intent on alienating their base. And they won't pick up a single Democrat vote by doing so.
The Republicans need the Democrats to fall on their face in order to stay in power. The Democrats usually oblige by doing something stupid or by overplaying their hand. But we can't depend on the Dems to screw up all the time.
I hope I'm wrong about this. But it's very demoralizing.
Agreed! The filibuster has some use - if 40% disagree strongly enough to dig their heels in, maybe they should be given a chance to be heard. But no one's making a case - just blocking. And the Republicans seem intent to wither and cave on everything. If they do, will they really deserve to stay in power?
They need to stick to principles! That's why people voted for them! No one respects a wimp.