The conservative upheaval leading to Harriet Miers’ withdrawal, encouraging President Bush to nominate known conservative Judge Sam Alito made rumors of an upcoming judicial filibuster rumble across the Hill, but after key Republicans on the Gang of 14 said they would fire the nuclear option, it doesn’t seem likely.
Sen. Mike Dewine (R.-Ohio) told press immediately after meeting with Judge Alito he “absolutely” would vote for the nuclear option, to end judicial filibuster. DeWine said, “It’s hard for me to envision anyone would think about filibustering this nominee or that anyone would think this would constitute what our group of 14 would term extraordinary circumstance. So, I can’t envision a filibuster would be tried as this certainly does not rise to the level of extraordinary circumstance. Therefore, I would be prepared, if a filibuster, which I don’t think will happen, if a filibuster was tried, to change the rules of the Senate to stop that filibuster.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) will vote for the nuclear option if filibuster is based purely on ideology. Graham said filibusters based on ideological differences are not “advising or consenting, it’s taking the power to pick away and will be Mid-East politics in the Senate because if you play it backwards, Republicans surely would have filibustered Briar and Ginsberg because in my view they are outside the mainstream.”
HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Amanda Carpenter found other Republican senators to see if they would block a filibuster on Judge Alito’s nomination. Senate Democrats were also sought to find if they foresaw any reasons to threaten filibuster.
If the Democrats threaten to filibuster will you vote to end judicial filibuster?
Sen. Norm Coleman (R.-Minn.): Yes. Absolutely. Judges deserve an up or down vote. I would hope my colleagues on the other side would not go down that path, but judges deserve an up or down vote.
If the Democrats moved towards filibustering Judge Alito would you vote to end it?
Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.): Yes. I think filibusters are unconstitutional and they violate tradition of the Senate that has existed for about 200 years. My hope is it won’t be necessary, but if it is necessary, I will certainly vote to restore majority rule to the confirmation process.
Now, if the Democrats threaten to filibuster will you vote to end judicial filibuster?
Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho): Oh, I would have even last time. It is fascinating to me, we’ve got a nominee that has now twice moved through the Senate, unanimously supported. I don’t think the judge has changed, I think Democrats have changed and Democrat strategies here. If Democrats filibuster, then you ought to go back and ask the former Democrat leaders why they didn’t filibuster and what’s different then than now. The difference is the leadership of the Democrat party. Not the judge, he’s the same judge that got confirmed twice. He’s had phenomenal experience, so that is a very hollow and very silly threat on the part of Democrats.
What do you make of Senators like Kennedy who did flip-flop and originally supported him and gave him good reviews saying he would make a good judge now coming back and saying that may not be the case?
Craig: I think that’s then and this is now. Like I say, the judge hasn’t changed, but maybe Democrats in the Senate have.
I read in CQ (Congressional Quarterly) today that you said you would vote to end judicial filibuster and you said other Republicans would as well. Did you talk to some of the other ones about this?
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah): Yes. I believe we’re not going to put up with it and it should apply to both Republicans and Democrats, or should I say, both Democrats and Republicans.
So you are confident if it came to a filibuster it would be voted down?
Hatch: I believe so.
Senator, of the concerns you have do you think any of them will elevate to the level of extraordinary circumstance to justify a filibuster?
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.): I have to have a hearing first. It’s interesting you ask that, it’s a relevant question. I remember all the talking points from the Republican side through the media and otherwise during the Roberts confirmation and how they were going to filibuster. I don’t recall a single Democrat suggesting that. My suggestion and what I urge my fellow Democrats in the Democratic caucus is ‘Why don’t you let us have the hearings?’ Senator Specter and I will conduct a fair, open hearing. Then, we’ll make up our minds. I think that’s the best way.
Sir, I believe you answered this in the other room, but I couldn’t quite hear you. Now, if it does come down to a filibuster, will you vote to end judicial filibusters?
Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.): [whispering and laughing] I don’t know.
I thought as much, but we wanted to get you on the record.
McCain: We [the Gang of 14] need to discuss that.
Knowing what you know now about Judge Alito’s record, do you foresee any extraordinary circumstances in which Alito might be filibustered?
Sen. Ben Nelson (D.-Neb.): I think it’s too early to try to determine that. Not because I am looking to establish that, but I just don’t think I know enough and want to learn more through the hearing process. As that unfolds, I think there’s a better answer, there will be a better answer coming to that.
Now, I’m not hearing any of my colleagues in the Gang of 14 on the Democratic side using those words or using the f-word, filibuster. So, I don’t anticipate right now anybody has arrived at that point, but I want to emphasize that’s at this point in time and there’s still a lot of hearing process out there and I think that’s why we need allow that to happen. I think it’s important to point out as well that Roberts shows the process can work even in the midst of partisan environment. Miers shows that the environment isn’t always partisan and it isn’t always the minority that obstructs. So, I think what we have to do is see more of this process unfold and we’ll have more answers to the questions you’re asking.
Will you be calling on the administration to be forthcoming with a comprehensive set of his records or do you think his court cases will suffice?
Nelson: I don’t know if this will rise to the level of the document drama because this nominee has been on the bench, the federal bench, the appeals bench for fifteen years and everything he has ruled is a matter of public record. So, I wouldn’t anticipate this would be a document drama situation.
If the Democrats do threaten to filibuster Alito will you vote to end the judicial filibuster process?
Sen. Pat Roberts (R.-Kan.): Let’s hope we don’t have to cross that bridge. You get into that country western song: the bridge has washed out . . .
The dog has died. . .
Roberts: . . . the Senate can’t swim and the judge is on the other side. I hope we don’t get to that. Let’s hope we can have a better outcome before we get to that point, so I’m hesitant to that. It may come to that. I think there are, unfortunately, people standing on the sidelines in the right field bleachers and the left field bleachers cheering for that outcome. I think they’ve been wanting this battle for a considerable number of years and I think it would be very divisive and I hope it doesn’t happen.
Is there anything about Judge Alito’s record that you know now that would lead you to filibuster his nomination?
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.): Nothing is on the table, nothing if off the table. Let’s learn more about Judge Scalia [sic]. The one thing we do know is the President is at decisive moment. He could have chosen a unifying nominee, or he could have chosen somebody who could please the very extreme groups who didn’t like Harriet Miers and he chose the second course. I don’t think that’s good for America and frankly, I don’t think that’s good for the President whatever the outcome of the vote is.
If the Democrats do threaten to filibuster Alito, will you vote to end judicial filibuster?
Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.): I am not going to engage double hypothetical speculation.
Do you foresee any circumstance in which you would filibuster Alito’s nomination?
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D.-Mich.): I think it’s too early to say. We’ve got a long ways to go, a lot of information in his judgments and his decisions and so on. We are just in the very beginning phases and are looking forward to get more information.
Will you be calling on the administration to be forthcoming with more documents than his public records already provides?
Stabenow: Again, we should have whatever is the appropriate, maximum information to make a good decision. This is a lifetime appointment and we’ve got to have the right information to make the best decision for people.
Do you foresee any extraordinary circumstances in which you would filibuster Judge Alito?
Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.): I’m going to wait for the hearings.