Monday, May 23, 2005

Emergency: Two Votes Needed 

Our distinguished colleagues at Corrente and Daily Kos inform us that Harry Reid has so far secured 49 votes in the Democratic fight to maintain the filibuster. He needs two more by tomorrow (in the event of a 50-50 tie, Dick Cheney will be on hand to cast the deciding vote).

Republican Senators Snowe, Chafee, McCain, and Collins have already lined up with Reid. The most likely swing votes, acoording to Roll Call, are Senators Warner, Specter, Hagel, and Dewine. Our friends on the right are already bombarding the senators above with telephone messages urging them to stay in the fold; we need to match those efforts call for call.

Please call. Be polite. We do not ask you to lie, but if there is any way you can give the impression that you might, someday, if the conditions were just right, vote for a Republican . . . .

Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania)
DC Office: 202-224-4254
Philadelphia Office: 215-597-7200
Pittsburgh Office: 412-644-3400

John Warner (Virginia)
DC Office: (202) 224-2023
Richmond Office: (804) 739-0247
Norfolk Office: (757) 441-3079

Mike Dewine (Ohio)
DC Office: (202) 224-2315
Cleveland office: (216) 522-7272
Columbus office: (614) 469-5186

Chuck Hagel (Nebraska)
DC Office: (202) 224-4224
Omaha Office: (402) 758-8981

UPDATE: Nuclear option defused. Bipartisan group of seven "moderate" Democrats and seven "moderate" Republicans cuts deal in which Dems retain filibuster power in exchange for a pledge hardly ever to use it:
But the compromise -- a middle ground between Republicans who want to ban judicial filibusters and Democrats who wanted to retain that right -- includes two big loopholes that could come back to haunt the Senate.

Democrats reserved the right to filibuster future judicial nominations in "extraordinary circumstances." Republicans kept the power to revisit the "nuclear option" if they believe Democrats are filibustering in circumstances that do not reach that standard.

If Bush chooses a very conservative nominee to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy -- as is expected this summer, with the likely retirement of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist -- Democrats will come under renewed pressure to reassert their filibuster rights. And if that happens, Republicans say they may resurrect the effort to ban filibusters of judicial nominations.

Frist, who was under heavy pressure from conservative and evangelical groups to brook no compromise, said he was disappointed that the agreement still "fell short" of the principal demand that no nominee should be filibustered. The compromise calls for guaranteeing votes on three of five contested appellate court nominees who Democrats have blocked.
Next question: will Frist's crackpot base turn on him for failing to deliver? Conservative activist Gary Bauer has already denounced the deal as a "sellout."

UPDATE II: Dueling post-mortems from Harry Reid and Bill Frist:
"Tonight the senate has worked its will on behalf of reason and behalf of responsibility. We have sent president George Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and the radical arm of the Republican base an undeniable message. Abuse of power will not be tolerated. Not be tolerated by Democrats or Republicans, and your attempt, I say to the vice president and the president, to trample the constitution and grab absolute control, is over. I offered Senator Frist several options, similar to this compromise, over many months, while he was not able to agree, I am pleased that some responsible Republicans and my colleagues were able to put aside their differences and work from the center."

- Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Minority Leader, during a press conference announcing a compromise to the "nuclear option" previously called for by Republican Senator Bill Frist.

"I fundamentally believe, that it is our constitutional reponsibility, to give judicial nominees, the respect and the courtesy of an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. Investigate them, and question them, and scrutinize them, and debate them in the best spirit of this body. But then vote. Up or down. Yes or no. Confirm or reject, but each deserves a vote. Unlike bills, nominees can't be amended. They can't be split apart, they can't be horse-traded, they can't be logrolled, our constitution does not allow for any of that. It simply requires up or down votes on judicial nominees. So in that regard, the agreement announced tonight, falls short of that principle. It falls short."

- Senator Bill Frist, Republican Senate majority leader, speaking from the floor of the US Senate about the agreement.

UPDATE III: Sweet Jesus -- the three nominees who get the free pass are Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. The only silver lining to be found: James Dobson is at least as disgusted as we are.
This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust.
Joe of AmericaBlog argues that the compromise may dissuade the President from nominating an outright psycho freak to the Supreme Court when Rehnquist keels over. We'll know soon enough, won't we?

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