4/04/2005

Frist preparing for nuclear option

From Joe of AmericaBlog:
Looks like Bill Frist is preparing for the "nuclear option" in the Senate. He wants to change the filibuster rules on judicial nominations. AP is reporting that:
Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is irked that Democrats have used filibusters to block 10 of Bush's choices for federal appeals courts. He's vowed not to let it happen this year, particularly with the possibility that there could soon be a Supreme Court nominee to consider. But to carry out that promise might require changing Senate rules that now allow just 41 members to block any judicial nominee. Frist needs 50 votes in the 100-member Senate to change the rules. Vice President Dick Cheney could then break a tie.
The interesting thing, according to the article, is that he doesn't have the full support of his Republican caucus:
Many are nervous about what has become known as the "nuclear option," a rules change would set off a political war that might block the remainder of Bush's domestic agenda. GOP Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, John Warner of Virginia and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have either said they oppose changing the rules or have declined to promise to support the change. Veteran Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Richard Lugar of Indiana won't say either. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," says Alaska's Ted Stevens, elected to the Senate in 1970 and now its longest-serving Republican.
This is serious stuff. If the Republicans change the rules, the Democrats have vowed to shut down the Senate. And, they can. Harry Reid is being resolute on this issue...and he needs to. This past weekend, for their weekly radio address, former Majority Leader George Mitchell talked about the "nuclear option." Mitchell gave up a federal judgeship when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1980. He is a very, very smart and astute politician. (and, it doesn't hurt to have Mitchell involved to keep Snowe and Collins in line.) Reuters gave the report on his address:
"All Americans should be concerned about the effort by Republican leaders in the Senate to unilaterally change the rules,” Mitchell said in delivering the Democrats’ weekly radio address. “They call it their 'nuclear option.' It’s an apt name because it will destroy any hope of bipartisanship and permanently change the Senate for the worse,” said Mitchell, who served as majority leader from 1989 to 1995....Mitchell said: “Our system of checks and balances is in place for a very good reason. It works. It protects all Americans. During the six years that I served as Senate majority leader, Republicans often used filibusters to achieve their objectives. I didn’t always agree with the results, but I accepted them and we were able to work together on many important issues.”
If Frist moves ahead, this will be an intense battle. And everyone will need to engage.

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