Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bush To Meet With Reid, Leahy, To Discuss Supreme Court Vacancy

With a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, President Bush is reaching out to a mix of Republicans and (surprise, surprise) Democrats, seeking their "advice and consent."

Bush will meet today with four Senate leaders: Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-TN), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on that panel.

The president clearly doesn't want to face the threat of a Democratic filibuster, and following negotiations among 14 moderate Senators in May, perhaps Bush is heeding their call to take seriously the "advise and consent" clause of the Constitution. The bloc of 14 -- seven Democrats and seven Republicans -- is large enough to derail both Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees and any GOP attempt to employ the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster.

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We have to assume that Bush plans to incorporate the Senators thoughts as he prepares to pick a nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. If he does, it will be a change in philosophy for the administration.

After the 14 senators' negotiations in May, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan indicated the Bush Administration would stay the course: "We will continue working to push for an up-or-down vote on all our nominees," he told CNN.

Frist, Bush's mouthpiece in the Senate, voiced a similar opinion, saying the agreement "falls short" of the principle that all judicial nominees should receive a vote on the Senate floor.

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We have to assume that Bush is being authentic is his desire to have a nominee sail through the confirmation process.

McClellan said at the July 11 press conference that Bush "will be listening to what their views are. The President is not prejudging anything. ... But not only are we going to consult before the nomination is made, but we'll continue to consult once the nomination is made."

It's a positive step -- a move similar to when President Clinton met in 1993 with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), then the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As Hatch wrote in his autobiography:

President Clinton indicated he was leaning toward nominating Bruce Babbitt, his Secretary of the Interior, a name that had been bouncing around in the press. ... Clinton asked for my reaction. ...

I told him that confirmation would not be easy. ... Our conversation moved to other potential candidates. I asked whether he had considered Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Circuit Court of Appeals or Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. ... I indicated I thought they would be confirmed easily. I knew them both and believed that, while liberal, they were highly honest and capable jurists and their confirmation would not embarrass the President. From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democrat administration.

In the end, the President did not select Secretary Babbitt. Instead, he nominated Judge Ginsburg and Judge Breyer a year later, when Harry Blackmun retired from the Court. Both were confirmed with relative ease.

3 Comments:

Blogger andym said...

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7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you possibly imagine Senator Schumer acting in the same manner that Senator Hatch did in discussing the candidates with the President? Do you think that the Democrats will be willing to accept the ideological equivalent of Justice Ginsberg as easily as the Republicans did? Just asking ...

J.D.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, Ginsberg has agreed with Scalia and Thomas 28% of the time.

10:26 PM  

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