Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Spectre of Republican Obstructionism

Having defeated Senate minority leader and "Obstructionist in Chief" Tom Daschle the Republican majority in the Senate seems determined to squander any advantage such a victory might entail. Bork-basher and "moderate" Republican Senator Arlen Specter is being considered for head of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush today against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.


While Specter is a loyal Republican -- Bush endorsed him in a tight Pennsylvania GOP primary -- he routinely crosses party lines to pass legislation and counts a Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, as one of his closest friends.

A self-proclaimed moderate, he helped kill President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. Specter called both nominees too extreme on civil rights issues. Sessions later became a Republican senator from Alabama and now sits on the Judiciary Committee with Specter.

OK, I'm all for separation of powers and I don't want the Congress to be a rubber stamp for the White House. Also, I don't think that overturning Roe should be a primary purpose for nominating strict constructionists. (It will, of course be the result!) But anyone familiar with the Bork nomination knows that when people say they want to protect Roe v Wade, they really mean that no judge who adheres to a strict constructionist interpretation will be considered.

Yesterday I said that we would see in the coming months whether the Republican party really believes that conservative principles are beneficial to the country. It looks like I was being generous. Maybe we should just start holding our breaths now?

Via Todd Zywicki at the Conspiracy, who comments:
With Justice Rehnquist ailing, it is always fun to think of ways that Republicans can mess up their current situation, especially on judicial nominations. Let's see, the White House, 55(!) Senators--seems almost impossible to mess up. Now I have to admit that putting Trent Lott in charge a few years back was a pretty inspired move to make sure that Republicans could scuttle their own success, but can they repeat that bold stroke again? Wait, I have an idea--how about making Arlen Specter Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee! First, the President could campaign for him to make sure that he wins his primary against his conservative challenger, then when he gets reelected, the first he could do is to tell the President not to nominate conservative judges. Making Specter Chair of the Judiciary Committee seems like a boneheaded move that only the Republicans could think up in terms of how to blow the benefit of their majority.

Last time I checked, the President still had the power of judicial nominations and the Senate at least vaguely resembled a democracy. It would be ironic if South Dakota tossed Tom Daschle at least in part on his obstructionism on judicial nominations, only to find Arlen Specter serving as the Democrats bag man in the Senate.

UPDATE: Hmm. Specter denies making the comments:
"Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the President about anything and was very respectful of his Constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges.

"As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bush’s nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue and, as the record shows, I have voted to confirm Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Kennedy and led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas.

"I have already sponsored a protocol calling for a Judiciary Committee hearing within thirty days of a nomination, a vote out of Committee thirty days later, and floor action thirty days after that. I am committed to such prompt action by the Committee on all of President Bush’s nominees.

"In light of the repeated filibusters by the Democrats in the last Senate session, I am concerned about a potential repetition of such filibusters. I expect to work well with President Bush in the judicial confirmation process in the years ahead."
Via McGhee at blogoSFERICS

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