Senators Work on Deals to Avoid Vote on Filibuster Rules Change

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 10, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Work on Deals to Avoid Vote on Filibuster Rules Change Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 10, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Some senators are hoping to avoid a showdown on whether to change Senate rules to lower the number of votes needed to stop filibusters and allow up or down votes on President Bush’s pro-life judicial picks.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by pro-life Sens. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, are putting together a deal. Under its terms, Republicans would end their bid to change the filibuster rules and six Senate Democrats would agree to allow votes on four of the seven appeals court nominees halted by filibusters.

The six moderate Democrats would also pledge to support ending filibusters for all Bush judicial nominees except in “extreme circumstances."

However, pro-life groups may worry that the deal, which would last through the 2006 elections, would allow the Democrats to declare as "extreme" any nominees they opposed — including potential Supreme Court selections.

The agreement would be in writing, however, and Republicans could presumably back out of the deal and call for a rules change vote if Democrats break their word.

Sen. Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, told a news conference last Thursday that many senators wish to avoid a filibuster rules change fight and hope to finalize a deal.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Monday that Democrats would back one of Bush’s judicial nominees, former Senate lawyer Thomas Griffith, as a goodwill gesture.

"Let’s take a step away from the precipice," said Reid, of Nevada. "Let’s try cooperation, rather than confrontation, which seems to be the hallmark of what we’ve been doing here lately."

Griffith has been nominated for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and he replaces the nomination of Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada, who withdrew after abortion advocates relentlessly filibustered him.

Democrats hope Reid’s latest offer, coming after another one Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist rejected, will persuade some Republicans not to back Frist’s effort to change Senate rules.

According to the Associated Press, First will likely reject this offer as well, saying that all of Bush’s nominees deserve a vote — not just one.

"This is a first step but there are seven other highly qualified nominees who have been filibustered in the 108th Congress who deserve an up-or-down vote as well," he said.

Marking the four year anniversary of some of his nominations to federal appeals and district courts, President Bush on Monday asked the Senate to give his pro-life nominees an up or down vote.

"Nominees who have the support of a majority of the Senate should be confirmed," Bush said in a statement issued by the White House as he was wrapping up his five-day European tour. "Unfortunately, a minority of senators is blocking the will of the Senate."