Democrats Say Filibuster on the Table in Court Fight

Filibuster on the Table in Court Fight (AP)

Senate Judiciary Committee members crystalized the debate over Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement on Sunday, making clear that a hard-line conservative would trigger a furious battle on Capitol Hill that could touch off a Democratic filibuster. The division emerged amid a conservative lobbying campaign against one possible pick, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a longtime Texas friend of President Bush who is considered too moderate by right-wing Republicans. “I don’t think the social conservatives ought to prejudge Attorney General Gonzales. Attorney General Gonzales may not even be in the picture,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Specter said he thinks Bush will consider “the gender factor” in making a selection, and the fact that O’Connor was a pivotal swing vote. However, it is unclear what the president will consider.
Bush has said in the past that conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are the kind of people he admires on the Supreme Court.

Bush was at Camp David mulling over his options, while Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York was urging a summit between senators from both parties and the president. Asked whether he would support a filibuster if a hard-liner is chosen, the judiciary committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said, “I would hope that we don’t reach that point.” “That’s why we’re going to meet with the president in about a week, going to urge that he put somebody who would unite the country, not divide the country,” said Leahy of Vermont. “I have no intention of filibustering, but it depends on who the president sends,” said Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. On ABC, Sen. Edward Kennedy , D-Mass., jumped in to answer a question intended for Specter, prompting Specter to joke, “I heard the filibuster starting a little early.”

Not particularly surprising. Given that the Republicans have shown little willingness to exert their power as the majority party–or even keep together as a cohesive voting block on this key issue–it’s small wonder that the Democrats are already ratcheting the rhetoric up on this one.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.