Senate Debate Heats Up as Last-Minute Compromisers Hopeful

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Debate Heats Up as Last-Minute Compromisers Hopeful Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 19, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The debate over President Bush’s pro-life judicial nominees and whether Senate rules concerning filibusters should change is heating up. Meanwhile, some senators are still hopeful that an 11th hour compromise can be reached before Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls for a vote on the nomination of a federal appeals court judge.

Senate Majority Leader Bill First decided to start off the days of debate by taking up the nomination of Texas Supreme Court justice Priscilla Owen.

"Debate the nominee for five hours, debate the nominee for 50 hours. Vote for the nominee, vote against the nominee," Frist said. "But in the end, vote. Senators, colleagues, let’s do our duty and vote."

But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid railed against Senate Republicans.

”If Republicans roll back our rights in this chamber, there will be no check on their power,” said Reid. ”The radical right wing will be free to pursue any agenda they want. And not just on judges. Their power will be unchecked on Supreme Court nominees, the president’s nominees in general and legislation like Social Security privatization.”

A handful of Democrats and Republicans hoped to work out a last-minute deal to head off a filibuster rules change vote, but appeared to fail on Wednesday. They’ll continue their efforts today.

Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado said he attended some 13 meetings over the last 24 hours in hopes of finding an alternative.

Other senators attending some of the meetings included Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

According to an Associated Press report, one of the deals involves allowing up or down votes on several pro-life nominees, including Texas Supreme Court justice Priscilla Owen, California judge Janice Rogers Brown and former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. Votes would also be allowed on David McKeague and Richard Griffin, two other appeals court picks.

In the deal, the nominations of Idaho lawyer William Myers and Henry Saad would continue to be filibustered.

However, Frist has repeatedly said he supports President Bush’s desire that all nominees receive a vote. And attempts to reach a deal were complicated when Oregon Republican Gordon Smith announced Wednesday he backed Frist’s attempt to change the rules.

”I think to do otherwise has a chilling effect not only on the meaning of elections, but as to the intellectual vigor of the judicial branch of the government,” Smith said, according to AP.

Groups on both sides of the abortion debate continue to make their case with pro-life groups seeking to get votes for every nominee and abortion advocates pressing senators to continue filibustering them all.

“We are enlisting hundreds of thousands of church leaders and members to pray that pro-abortion, anti-values forces will not be able to hold the federal courts–and especially the Supreme Court–hostage to their extremist views through pressing Senators to continue the misuse of the filibuster rule," Rev. Rob Schenk, President of the National Clergy Council, said.

Senators are expected to debate this week and hold a test vote on ending the filibuster early next week. If the filibuster continues, Frist will move to change the Senate rules to lower the number of votes needed to stop it.