October 31, 2005

Judge Alito -- Breaking News!

Hatched by Dafydd

According to Hugh Hewitt, Charles Schumer is "slowing" the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court; I haven't yet seen this in print, but he did say that "it is a question" whether Alito would "reverse much of what Rosa Parks and so many others fought so long and so hard to put into place," as reported by Hugh. (I just heard the audio clip of Schumer using this phrase, so it's not just Hugh's word.)

Hugh had the same idea as I on the point of the delay: it's not out of any idea that Schumer and the other rejectionists could gather enough support to stop Alito's confirmation; rather, they hope to delay his confirmation long enough that Sandra Day O'Connor, not Samuel Alito, will decide the two abortion cases that will be argued in November.

But Hugh also reports that Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has as much as signalled that he will not support a filibuster against Judge Alito, and that he will support the "constitutional option" if the Democrats try. And just now, I heard with my own ears (not someone else's ears) Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) explicitly say that he sees nothing in the way of "extraordinary circumstances" in the Alito nomination and that DeWine too would support the constitutional option if the Democrats filibuster.

That means two members of the Gang of Fourteen (specifically, the Seven Dwarfs contingent) have now come out in favor of the constitutional option -- banning judicial filibusters altogether -- if the Democrats filibuster Alito, as Patterico long-ago predicted the Democrats would for anybody that Bush nominated to his second Supreme Court opening.

Assuming that neither Arlen Specter (R-PA) nor Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would refuse to pull the trigger on that option, that means that the Democrats can get no more than five Republicans to vote against it... and that is not enough; with Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote, the rules change would in fact pass. (Assuming, that is, that no Republican is unable to make the vote due to illness.) Though I'm also a bit concerned about Chuch Grassley (R-IA),

Speaking of Patterico, he also discusses this question.

I am convinced that Specter, in his present capacity as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, could not reasonably vote against the constitutional option in the context of a Democratic filibuster against Alito. So we need to get one more Squish on record out of the following group: John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and John Warner (R-VA). I suspect Hagel, McCain, and Warner will make it clear before the hearings that they see no "extraordinary circumstances" in the Alito nomination.

It's looking good. The only question is whether the Democrats go ahead and force a filibuster, thus allowing the Senate to ban such tactics, or whether they read the tea leaves and drop the idea, just to keep that possiblity open for the future. (But who would they be waiting for, other than Samuel Alito? Is there anyone reasonably imaginable that Bush could nominate who would be worse for the Democrats than Alito?)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 31, 2005, at the time of 3:57 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dana Pico

Our esteemed host hissed:

But who would they be waiting for, other than Samuel Alito? Is there anyone reasonably imaginable that Bush could nominate who would be worse for the Democrats than Alito?

It all depends on the numbers. If the Democrats can count (and they can), and they count 50 or more Republicans willing to support the nuclear option, they might as well not force the issue; if they do, and lose, they lose it in the future. Just because a future nominee might not be worse for them than Judge Alito does not mean that it would make sense to lose one of their potential future weapons.

The Democrats hope to pick up a couple of Senate seats in 2006. If they can pick up two, and they haven't allowed the GOP to end permanently filibusters on judicial nominations, they could remove the numbers needed for the GOP to employ the nuclear option in the event of a future filibuster.

The GOP needs two things: a first rate performance from Judge Alito in his confirmation hearings; and they need to secure the fifty votes needed for the nuclear option, early.

The above hissed in response by: Dana Pico [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2005 4:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: tgharris

"...Is there anyone reasonably imaginable that Bush could nominate who would be worse for the Democrats than Alito?)"

Yeah....me. Provided you strike the "reasonably imaginable" proviso.

The above hissed in response by: tgharris [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2005 5:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Dana pretty much beat me to what I was going to say. Others around the 'sphere have speculated that if the Dims realize they can't beat Alito anyway they'll try to avert the nuclear option in hopes of picking up seats in '06 or later. I'm not sure I want to credit them with that much intelligence but it's a thought.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2005 6:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: beebop

I commented a few days ago about the common misperceptions of the Gang of 14 deal, so I don't want to rehash that discussion other than to say if it were not for the rabid hatred of John McCain by the country club/social conservative wing of the Republican Party this issue would be a lot clearer. To suggest that McCain or Warner are going to waiver on voting for Alito is rediculous, John McCain is more committed to reforming the courts than Bush ever was. If you want to focus your microscope on someone, why not Ben Nelson, running for re-election in Nebraska where Bush won by 20 points. How is he going to explain supporting a filibuster so "one nation under god" can be deleted by some Democrat's idea of a mainstream judge. How is Mary Landreau, in an even redder Louisiana post-Katrina, going to face her family values voters if she takes her marching orders from Ralph Neas. The Gang of 14 deal, in my mind, was the Equivalent of the Compromise of 1850, a well intentioned move to paper over differences that are irrepressible. Our country needs a thorough airing of what the courts are supposed to do, and this debate will help the Republicans. I predict most of the Dem members of the Gang of 14 thwart a filibuster on Alito.

The above hissed in response by: beebop [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2005 7:12 PM

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