Republican Senator Backs Filibuster Change as Momentum Builds

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 18, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Republican Senator Backs Filibuster Change as Momentum Builds Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 18
, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A Republican senator has announced he will support a rules change to make it easier to defeat filibusters by pro-abortion Senate Democrats as momentum builds for a vote on the idea. Meanwhile, a pro-life Democrat has put forward a compromise proposal he hopes will resolve the debate without leading to Senate gridlock.

On Sunday, Indiana Republican Dick Lugar said he’s no longer undecided on the rules change. He said "when push comes to shove" he will support efforts by Republican leaders to make it easier to approve President Bush’s pro-life judicial picks.

"I would not take a stand against my party’s view that we should have up-or-down votes on judges and that this is a part of the filibuster thing that really needs to be settled and set aside," Lugar told "Fox News Sunday."

Lugar did say, however, that he hopes to settle the debate "through negotiation."

That’s the hope of Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, a pro-life Democrat. He says his party’s position on blocking votes on key pro-life nominees for federal courts have been moderates like him in a difficult position.

He thinks more can be done to build bridges between Republicans and moderate Democrats, who have reluctantly supported some filibusters.

“I think that some of my colleagues have had some discomfort in voting against cloture but have felt that the nominees were sufficiently unwise choices to feel that was justified,” he told The Hill. “I’ve sensed some concern.”

Nelson named Democrat senators such as Colorado’s Ken Salazar, and Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas as some who would be open to a negotiated compromise.

To that end, he is talking with Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, the chairman of the Rules Committee about a rules change that would allow nominees to receive floor votes after a certain period of time, despite a filibuster.

Lott told The Hill newspaper that he would support such a compromise, but he didn’t think Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid would.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will likely press for the filibuster rules change next month.

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 senators worry Senate Democrats will follow through on their threat to virtually shut down the Senate in response.

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.