Democrats' hopes of blocking a staunchly conservative Supreme Court nominee on ideological grounds could be seriously undermined by a six-week-old bipartisan deal on judicial nominees, key senators said Sunday, the Washington Post's Charles Babington and Susan Schmidt will reveal Monday, RAW STORY has learned. Excerpts follow:
With President Bush expected to name a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor next week, liberals are laying the groundwork to challenge the nominee if he or she leans solidly to the right on affirmative action, abortion and other contentious issues. But even if they can show the nominee has sharply held views on matters that divide many Americans, some of the 14 senators who crafted the May 23 compromise appear poised to prevent that strategy from blocking confirmation to the high court, according to numerous interviews.
The pact, signed by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, says a judicial nominee will be filibustered only in "extraordinary circumstances." Key members of the group said Sunday that a nominee's philosophical views cannot amount to "extraordinary circumstances," and therefore a filibuster can be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character.
The distinction is crucial because Democrats want to force Bush to pick a centrist, not a staunch conservative that many activist groups on the political right desire. Holding only 44 of the Senate's 100 seats, Democrats have no way to block a Republican-backed nominee without employing a filibuster, which takes 60 votes to stop.
Under the "Gang of 14" accord, the seven Republican signers agreed to deny Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the votes he needed to carry out his threat to bar judicial filibusters by changing Senate rules. The seven are implicitly released from the deal if the Democratic signers renege on their end.
With help from only one or two fellow Gang of 14 members, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he is positioned to dissolve the deal and thwart a filibuster either by having enough Democratic signers refuse to back a filibuster, or by having enough GOP members support Frist in outlawing judicial filibusters. Graham predicts Bush will nominate "a solid conservative" to replace O'Connor.