GOP Senators Waver on Nuclear Option

President Bush has renominated 20 judicial candidates, many of whom Senate Democrats blocked in the last Congress even though they could have won a majority vote on the Senate floor.

It is likely that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) will soon bring one or more of these nominees up for a vote and Senate Democrats will again try to block their confirmations.

That will set the stage for Senate Republicans to implement the so-called “nuclear option,” a dramatic rule change that would forbid filibusters of presidential nominees (but not of legislative matters).

Frist has vowed to seek the rule change if Democrats resume their filibuster strategy. But it is not clear that Frist has the 50 votes (out of 55 Senate Republicans, with Vice President Cheney as the tie-breaking vote) needed to approve the rule change.

Human Events Assistant Editor Robert Bluey contacted the offices of GOP senators who were believed by both conservatives and liberals to be soft on the nuclear option. Some spokesmen for these senators responded directly, others pointed Human Events to previous statements on the issue by the senator, and one, Sen. Thad Cochran (R.-Miss.) did not respond.


Lincoln Chafee (R.I.)

  • Contact Info:
    141A Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-3904
    Phone: 202-224-2921
  • “He has indicated he would be opposed to using the nuclear option.”–Spokesman Stephen Hourahan, March 29

    Leaning Against

    Olympia Snowe (Maine)

  • Contact Info:
    154 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-1903
    Phone: 202-224-5344
  • “She believes Democrats have gone too far and they’ve politicized these nominees. . . However, she does have some concerns about the nuclear option.” –Spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier, March 29

    John McCain (Ariz.)

  • Contact Info:
    241 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-0303
    Phone: 202-224-2235
  • “I will listen to the leadership’s arguments, and I will, and I’m leaning against it, but I’ll be glad to listen to the arguments of my party.” –McCain, March 20 on ABC News


    Susan Collins (Maine)

  • Contact Info:
    461 Dirksen Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-1904
    Phone: 202-224-2523
  • “I am very concerned about the overuse of the filibuster, but I am also concerned that a rule change will further charge the partisan atmosphere.” –Collins, March 15 in a statement

    Chuck Hagel (Neb.)

  • Contact Info:
    248 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-2705
    Phone: 202-224-4224
  • “I would hope we don’t come to that fork in the road when the majority leader . . . would feel that he would have no other option than to exercise a nuclear option.” –Hagel, March 8 at a press briefing

    Gordon Smith (Ore.)

  • Contact Info:
    404 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-3704
    Phone: 202-224-3753
  • “I’m urging them to find a way to avoid the nuclear option.” –Smith, February 15 to Congressional Quarterly

    Arlen Specter (Pa.)

  • Contact Info:
    711 Hart Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-3802
    Phone: 202-224-4254
  • “I have not made a judgment on it. As I’ve said before, I prefer not to come to that bridge, and I’m certainly not going to jump off a bridge until I come to it.” –Specter, February 24 at a press briefing

    John Warner (Va.)

  • Contact Info:
    225 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-4601
    Phone: 202-224-2023
  • “I have not reached a firm view on the matter, however I tend to be a traditionalist, and the right of unlimited debate has been a hallmark of the Senate since its inception.” –Warner, January 14 in a statement

    George Voinovich (Ohio)

  • Contact Info:
    524 Hart Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-3504
    Phone: 202-224-3353
  • “His hope would be it isn’t a step we would have to take, but he does believe the filibustering of judicial nominees has to be resolved.” –Spokesman Scott Milburn, March 29

    Won’t Say

    Thad Cochran (Miss.)

  • Contact Info:
    113 Dirksen Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-2402
    Phone: 202-224-5054
  • Office did not know and did not respond to follow-up request.

    Mike DeWine (Ohio)

  • Contact Info:
    140 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-3503
    Phone: 202-224-2315
  • “I haven’t heard him say either way.” –Spokeswoman Amanda Flaig, March 30

    Richard Lugar (Ind.)

  • Contact Info:
    306 Hart Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-1401
    Phone: 202-224-4814
  • “He has made no comment on the issue.” –Spokesman Andy Fisher, March 30

    Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

  • Contact Info:
    709 Hart Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-0203
    Phone: 202-224-6665
  • “She normally does not participate in surveys like that until a vote actually comes to the floor.” –Spokeswoman Kristin Pugh, March 29

    John Sununu (N.H.)

  • Contact Info:
    111 Russell Senate Building
    Washington, DC 20510-2905
    Phone: 202-224-2841
  • “He has not taken a public position.” –Spokeswoman Barbara Riley, March 29
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