Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Senate's 'Gang of 14' Fractures Over Alito

The 14 centrists who averted a Senate breakdown over judicial nominees last spring are showing signs of splintering on President Bush's latest nominee for the Supreme Court.

That is weakening the hand of Democrats opposed to conservative judge Samuel Alito and enhancing his prospects for confirmation.

The unity of the seven Democrats and the seven Republicans in the "Gang of 14" was all that halted a major filibuster fight between GOP leader Bill Frist and Democratic leader Harry Reid earlier this year over Bush's lower court nominees.

The early defection of two of the group's Republicans, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, could hurt if Democrats decide to attempt a filibuster of Alito, the New Jersey jurist Bush nominated Monday to replace retiring Sandra Day O'Connor.

If Democrats do filibuster, Frist wants to change the Senate rules to eliminate the delaying tactic — something the centrist group blocked in May.

But a filibuster "based on a judicial philosophy difference, or an ideologically driven difference," Graham said Wednesday at a news conference. "I don't believe that, with all sincerity, I could let that happen."

DeWine also made clear Tuesday after meeting with the judge that he would vote to ban a Democratic filibuster. "It's hard for me to envision that anyone would think about filibustering this nominee," he said.


The loss of Graham and DeWine makes the "Gang of 14" less influential.

Republicans hold 55 seats in the Senate, and while confirmation requires a simple majority, it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

However, Frist needs only a simple majority — 51 votes — to eliminate the stalling tactic.

That means he needs two members of the centrist group to join the rest of the GOP to meet his goal. With a 50-vote tie in the Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney would cast the tie-breaking vote for the Republicans and Alito could be confirmed with majority support.

Quelle surprise. I'd like to claim brilliance or clairvoyance with my early call on the essence of the Great Compromise, although that post way back when proves little other than that I had a pulse and one working hemisphere in my brain at the time.

I was a little surprised to see DeWine break out this early. His approval numbers are so pathetic right now that I thought he might keep his cards closer to his vest and pretend to be a little more tortured before (inevitably) backing an anti-Roe, anticivil rights, pro-machine gun white guy for SCOTUS. I guess he thinks the same fringe lunatics who Bush is relying on to get his approval numbers back to...oh, 39%...will get him re-elected next year. Chucklehead.

Lessee...Chafee, Snowe and Collins would all be toast by backing Scalito and all three are notably unenthusiastic about his nomination. Specter sounded even more peevish than usual today in an interview on NPR when (not) sharing his thoughts about Shrub sending an anti-Roebot to the Committee for consideration (favorite part: he pretty much said Silent Clarence lied about his judicial philosphy during his confirmation hearings). Frist only needs 51 to invoke the nuke option; we only need 51 to send Alito home. Anybody else looking flippable right now?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

John A. @ Americablog has been doing a Miers on him -- dredging up some very (gasp) tolerant things he said in his wayward youth. If only we could provoke them into eating their own again...

7:37 AM  

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