Senators Reach Compromise Deal on Judicial Filibusters

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 23, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Reach Compromise Deal on Judicial Filibusters Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 23, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A group of 14 Republicans and Democrats in the Senate reached a deal late Monday that will likely prevent a Tuesday showdown on the issue of confirming President Bush’s pro-life judicial picks. The Senate was slated to vote on changing Senate rules regarding filibusters.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, announced the terms of the deal.

"We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice that would have had, in the view of all 14 of us, lasting impact, damaging impact on the institution," McCain said.

Under the agreement, some of President Bush’s judicial picks will receive votes while the nominations of others will be scuttled.

Perhaps more importantly, in exchange for opposing any effort to change Senate rules, the seven Democrats would promote not to filibuster Bus’s judicial nominations for the Supreme Court unless "under extraordinary circumstances," McCain said.

But what constitutes such a circumstance has pro-life groups and some lawmakers worried. They fear the Democrats could name any potential high court pick "extreme" and join the rest of the Senate Democrats in filibustering them.

"[E]ach signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether the circumstances exist," the compromising senators wrote in a document they all signed.

McCain said the group would end filibusters on Texas Supreme Court judge Priscilla Owen, California Supreme Court judge Janice Rogers Brown, and former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. All three pro-life judges have been nominated to appeals court positions.

The group made no promises on two other appellate court picks, William Myers and Henry Saad.

Earlier Monday, the president called on the Senate to allow votes on every nominee.

"I expect them to get an up-or-down vote. That’s what I expect," Bush said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "And I think the American people expect that as well."

"My job is to pick people who will interpret the Constitution, not use the bench from which to write law," Bush said.

A White House spokesman applauded the votes on the three appeals court picks but said all nominees should receive Senate votes.

"Many of these nominees have waited for quite some time to have an up or down vote and now they are going to get one. That’s progress,” press secretary Scott McClellan said. "We will continue working to push for up or down votes for all the nominees.”

According to an Associated Press report, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who also wanted votes on every nominees, said he would not yet move forward with his request to change Senate rules.

"It has some good news and it has some disappointing news and it will require careful monitoring,” he said. He said it "falls short" of the goals he has.

Frist had planned to use a parliamentary motion to change the rules if the vote on Owen’s nomination, scheduled for Tuesday, resulted in a failure to break the current filibuster against her.

Some of the other lawmakers involved in the deal include Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat; Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican; Senator Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat; Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat; Senator Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat; Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican; Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.