Senators Will Filibuster if Supreme Court Nominee Too Conservative

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 4, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Will Filibuster if Supreme Court Nominee Too Conservative Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 4, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Members of the Senate say they will filibuster President Bush’s pick to replace pro-abortion Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, if the nominee is too conservative. The comments set up what could possibly be an intense confirmation battle.

Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, told ABC’s "This Week" about the filibuster possibility and hearkened back to a pro-life nominee the Senate failed to confirm nearly two decades ago, Robert Bork.

"Can we imagine what this country would be like today if Judge Bork had gone onto the Supreme Court," Kennedy asked.

”We want to be able to support [the president], but if he wants to have a fight about it, then that’s going to be the case," Kennedy warned.

Six weeks ago, 14 Republican and Democratic senators struck a filibuster compromise deal on allowing votes for a handful of pro-life appeals court nominees that had been blocked by filibusters. The nominees received votes in exchange for promises not to support changing Senate rules to prevent filibusters on judges.

The deal is tenuous and members agreed that a filibuster would only be used on future judges, including Supreme Court nominees, in "extraordinary circumstances." But, what each senator defines as "extraordinary" is subject to interpretation.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the seven Republicans, said he didn’t think differences of legal opinion with a Supreme Court pick should qualify as "extraordinary."

Other senators also commented on the prospects that a filibuster could hold up a nominee.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC’s "Meet the Press," "I would hope that we don’t reach that point.”

"I have no intention of filibustering, but it depends on who the president sends,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and likely presidential candidate, told CBS’ "Face the Nation" television program.

However, if they make good on their filibuster threat, pro-life Republicans say they plan to ask Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring back the idea of preventing judicial filibusters.

"If a few senators refuse to grant the president and his nominee that courtesy, I would encourage Majority Leader Frist to restore the Senate’s 214-year-old precedent that gave judges the basic right of a vote," Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn told the Associated Press.

Republicans say they hope Senate Democrats won’t hold up a nominee and want a replacement for O’Connor by October, when the next Supreme Court term begins.

"I think it is an important objective, and I think we can reach it," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Specter believes hearings on a nominee could begin about four to six weeks after Bush’s appointment, which allows his staff time to conduct background checks and prepare information for the hearings.

That means hearings would likely take place in August at the earliest.

Neither Biden, Leahy nor Kennedy were part of the filibuster deal.

President Bush is at Camp David over the Independence Day weekend considering his options and is not expected to announce a replacement until next week after he returns from the G8 summit.