Senate Will Likely Vote on Rules Change to Stop Judicial Filibusters

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 15, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Will Likely Vote on Rules Change to Stop Judicial Filibusters Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 15
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Will he or won’t he? That’s been the question on the minds of many political observers about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s decision on how to proceed with combating filibusters by abortion advocates against President Bush’s pro-life judicial nominees.

First has been considering whether or not to force the Senate to vote on a rules change that would lower the number of votes needed to stop a filibuster on the judicial picks from an unattainable 60 to a majority vote.

While the change would allow pro-life lawmakers to approve appointments to key federal appeals courts and, perhaps eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court, some legislators worry Senate Democrats will follow through on their threat to virtually shut down the Senate in response.

The Washington Post reports Friday that Frist is "all but certain " to press for the change, according to top Frist aides.

"I think it’s going to happen," Sen. John Thune, a pro-life Republican from South Dakota, said this week.

Frist’s aides told the Post that the Senate Republican leader still hopes to offer a compromise version of the proposal that Senate Democrats could agree to, but there’s little change of that happening.

If he moves ahead with the rules change request, Frist will need to shore up the votes of pro-abortion Republicans and moderates like John McCain, the Arizona senator who has said he will oppose the change.

But leading pro-life lawmakers like Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum and Virginia’s George Allen want Frist to act sooner rather than later.

Allen told the Post he worries a rules change closer to a vote on a Supreme Court nominee would be seen as playing politics rather than wanting to allow all judicial picks an up or down vote.

Pro-life groups are still encouraging Senate Republican leaders to move ahead with the rules change.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life law firm, announced Monday it was launching a national campaign to support the effort.

"The use of the judicial filibuster is an obstructionist tactic designed to prevent full consideration of nominees — a move that violates the Constitution," said Jay Sekulow, the group’s chief counsel.

Sekulow said his firm would launch a petition campaign to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures pressing for the rules change.

The National Right to Life Committee also supports the change, saying that it is necessary to stop filibusters by abortion advocates which are holding up the nominations of more than a dozen pro-life judicial picks. Such filibusters could also stall nominees to the nation’s high court.

"The fate of the President’s future nominees to the Supreme Court may hang in the balance," the group said.