Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) just paid a visit to Bloggers’ Row to reaffirm his commitment to making sure Samuel Alito’s confirmation vote will happen by Jan. 20 — the date agreed upon by Republicans and Democrats, which has been threatened by Democratic delay tactics.
"That is the day that had generally been agreed to in conversations among Senators Leahy, Specter, Reid and myself," Frist said. "And it has been colored a little bit differently the last few days by Senators Kennedy, Schumer and others, all of whom have it within their power to make feeble attempts at delay and postponement."
Frist was leery of talking about a possible Democratic filibuster, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) threatened this weekend on NBC News’ "Meet the Press." However, Frist repeated his vow to do whatever is in his power to assure Alito and other judicial nominees up-or-down votes on the Senate floor.
"There are procedural maneuvers that can be used by the Democrats, which have they used in the past, that can continually delay," Frist said. "So what you have to do is work with the Judiciary Committee and decide upon the soonest, most practical time. I would have much rather had it done before Christmas, but that was impossible to do."
Regarding the so-called "nuclear option," which Frist prefers to call the "constitutional option," he said: "I’ve said in the past that, and yes, I didn’t do it because it was the will of these 14 senators [in the Gang of 14] to not allow me to use the constitutional option, but I made very clear that is a tool that I have to use."
As for the immediate timetable, Frist said he wants the hearings to be finished by the end of the week, and he expects Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) to work through the weekend.
"If there’s anyone feeling that we’ll do these hearings until Thursday and then push them off until Martin Luther King Day, that’s not going to happen," Frist said.