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Schizophrenic Left Will, Won’t or Might Filibuster Alito

Will chicken little pick a fight or lay an egg?

The sky-is-falling left is stuck in re-runs. It has one message for defeating judicial nominees — name calling — and one game-plan: threaten a filibuster. Some want to filibuster Judge Samuel Alito, some are undecided, and some are in denial.

Long-serving Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia “upbraided Majority Leader [Bill] Frist Monday for repeated threats to take away Democrats’ ability to filibuster Samuel Alito’s confirmation for the Supreme Court,” according to Basil Talbott and Mark Wegner writing for Congressional Quarterly earlier this week.

Byrd was in a huff because Frist dared to answer a question raised by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday about what Frist would do if the Democrats tried to filibuster Alito. Frist said “he would trigger the so-called nuclear option to end filibusters of judicial nominees if Democrats try to block a vote on Alito.”

Byrd claimed that “no Democrat has threatened to filibuster Alito’s nomination but that the right to engage in one must not be ‘frittered away’ because it amounts to the right of free speech for senators. Byrd added that he does not favor a filibuster at this time.”

Either Byrd needs to pay attention to his friends or we’re left to assume this was just more Byrd chirping.

The problem is that more Americans than not are satisfied with a Justice Alito on the Supreme Court. According to a poll conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute from November 28 to December 4, 2005, 41% of respondents approve of Alito’s nomination and 27% disapprove. The poll has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

That’s hardly the stuff on which filibuster threats can be taken seriously. And it helps explain the Dems’ double talk:

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said Democrats would consider all options to defeat Alito, including a filibuster. “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid pledged that Democrats will consider all options at their disposal if they decide to stop Alito’s nomination. Though Reid said Democrats will wait for confirmation hearings before choosing their strategy, he noted that Bush is ‘near the bottom of his popularity’ in opinion polls and that a filibuster to defeat Alito is possible.” (The Boston Globe, November 1, 2005)

A double-minded leader might be foolish enough to pull his party over a political cliff. But there’s little chance he can pull the wool over the eyes of Americans who’ve seen the filibuster “play” run too many times, as with Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, Charles Pickering, Miguel Estrada, David McKeague, Henry Saad, Richard Griffin, Carolyn Kuhl and William Myers.

Reid: “Democrats can hardly ‘persist’ in an activity we are not engaged in. No Democrat has even raised the issue of extended debate.” (Floor statement, November 16, 2005)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.): “Nothing is on the table, and nothing is off the table.” (The Hill, November 1, 2005)

If a leftie speaks in a forest, does somebody have to be there to make sense of it?

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.): “The filibuster’s on the table.” (The Associated Press, November 1, 2005)

Who’d have guessed.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa) likes the idea. “Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said, ‘I believe Democrats will filibuster this nominee on the basis that he’s way too ideologically to the right. We need a moderate on the court, not an avowed right-winger like him that would upset the balance.’” (The Baltimore Sun, November 2, 2005)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.) says maybe. CBS’s Jan Crawford Greenburg: “Are you refusing to rule that filibuster out now? Do you think that’s still likely or is it just highly unlikely?” … Durbin: “Let’s complete the hearing in January, then make a decision whether we should go forward with the nomination of Judge Alito.” (CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” November 6, 2005)

Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del) warns Alito he may need Biden’s vote to stop a filibuster. “As Democrats stepped up questioning of Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., warned the nominee Wednesday he might need Biden’s vote on a potential filibuster if the judge is not forthright during hearings. … ‘I told him you probably don’t need my vote to get on the bench,’ Biden continued, ‘but if you are disingenuous in the hearings, you may need my vote relating to a filibuster.’” (CongressDaily AM, November 17, 2005)

Biden’s in charge of making sure Alito hasn’t disingenuously taken credit for somebody else’s writing.

Biden says chances of Democrats filibustering Alito’s nomination have increased. Fox’s Chris Wallace: “[V]ery briefly, you’re saying the chances for a filibuster have increased.” Biden: “Well, I think based upon that job application where he said he strongly held these views, yes.” (Fox News Sunday, November 20, 2005)

Apparently, filibuster-proof judges are left-handed rubber-stamps who have no “strongly held views.”

Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wis.) says, “It’s perfectly fine to use a filibuster” if needed.” Feingold: “I think it’s perfectly fine to use a filibuster if somebody is clearly unacceptable. That is an option we have. It has almost never been used with regard to a Supreme Court justice, so it would take an extreme case, but I was the one Democrat who was unhappy publicly with the sort of deal that was made earlier in the year that kind of let certain judges go through that shouldn’t have gone through. The right to filibuster is part of our role in the Senate, and we should reserve the right but use it only very sparingly.” (ABC’s This Week, November 27, 2005)

Sen. Ken Salazar (D.-Colo.), who promised during his election to give every nominee a vote, says he’s open to supporting a filibuster: “[Salazar] also said the filibuster remains an option and left open the prospect that he might support one. ‘It’s an option out there,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying whether I would be participating in one or not. I have never participated in one. I don’t want to participate in one.’” (The Washington Times, November 18, 2005)

Sen. Tim Johnson (D.-S.D.) refused to reject a filibuster after meeting with Alito. “Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota refused to rule out supporting a filibuster. ‘I would leave all those options on the table,’ he said.” (The Associated Press, November 1, 2005)

DNC Chairman Howard Dean says Democrats should “absolutely” consider a filibuster. “Despite early signals to the contrary, U.S. Senate Democrats must keep open the option of blocking a confirmation vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, Democratic Party leader Howard Dean said on Sunday. … Dean, asked if Democrats should keep the possibility of a filibuster on the table, said, ‘Absolutely. Of course we should.’” (Reuters, November 13, 2005)

People For the American Way (PFAW) solicits volunteers for its “Stop Alito!” phone-banking effort. “We need your help to build the momentum against this right-wing nomination! We will be phonebanking this Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2005) from 6pm – 9pm and Sunday (Dec. 4, 2005) from 1pm – 4pm. And don’t forget: you can come in to make phone calls anytime Mon-Fri from 9am to 6pm, whenever you have some free time.” (PFAW e-mail, November 28, 2005)

NARAL Pro-Choice America kicks-off petition drive against Alito’s nomination with goal to collect 2 million signatures. “Alito is the far right’s pick to shift the balance of the Supreme Court against a woman’s right to choose, so they’re pulling out all the stops. … What your signatures will do: To convince enough senators that Alito is wrong for our country, we must be bold, relentless, and strong.” (NARAL e-mail, November 21, 2005)

And wouldn’t you know, on December 14, rather than wait until after Alito’s hearing, the zealous advocates of arbitration and collective bargaining at the AFL-CIO announced their opposition to Alito’s confirmation. You’d think they’d back a working man who deserves a promotion and picket anybody who’d deny him the courtesy of an interview.

To filibuster or not to filibuster may be the question, and those who support Judge Alito’s confirmation will want to stay in touch with CWA’s “Court” Web page in order to stay informed and equipped to counter the left’s disinformation campaign.

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Written By

Ms. LaRue is chief counsel for Concerned Women for America.

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