TOPICS > Politics

No Comity

November 14, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST


KWAME HOLMAN: For more than 39 hours Republicans shared the Senate floor with Democrats, hoping to convince just enough of them to give up months of filibustering and allow simple up-or-down votes on a handful of the president’s contested judicial nominees. It would take at least 60 votes to do so. But shortly before 10:00 this morning, it became evident that no minds had been changed.

SPOKESMAN: The yeahs are 53, the nays are 43 — three-fifths of the senators duly sworn and not voting in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans had scheduled new cloture votes this morning, votes to end debate on the nominations of Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown, both nominated to federal courts of appeals. Democrats previously had blocked confirmation votes on four other nominees and did so again today. Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum had no illusions as to what the results would be, and minutes before the votes, issued a warning to Democrats.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM: We’ll have our opportunity someday, and we’ll make sure there’s not another liberal judge ever, ever get on the bench. No more Richard Paez, no more Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never. Because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let them up the ante. We’ll take all those activist judges they’ve sent up and we’ll shoot them down. Is that what they want? Anybody who gives a political opinion in America no longer will be eligible for the judiciary. We’re going to sanitize the judiciary. We’re going to send it to mediocrityville. Is that what we want here? Because, let me assure you as I live and breathe, that’s what will happen.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Minority Leader Tom Daschle was not moved by the threat. His Democrats remained united with only two defections.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Mr. President, I find it remarkable that our colleagues continue to come to the floor these past 40 hours and lament the fact that we have had votes on 172 judges. Four of them have not been confirmed because they have not obtained cloture, and with passion, with emotion they scream out, “where is the justice for those four justices? Where is the fairness?”

KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans had ordered the marathon session in hopes of drawing public attention to what they claim is unprecedented partisan obstructionism by Democrats in blocking the president’s nominees. Montana’s Conrad Burns:

SEN. CONRAD BURNS: I know what is going on here, and they should be ashamed — ashamed to contradict their own conscience. Obstructionists, give these judges a vote, up or down. That’s the way you got here. They deserve the same.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats, in turn, used their time to point out they’ve allowed all but four of the president’s nominees to be approved, rejecting only those few nominees who, they claim, hold radically conservative views.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Let’s have some backbone here and stand up when we think these nominees are good for the people and oppose them when we know they have been bad for the people and they’ll do worse yet.

KWAME HOLMAN: These final few hours of debate were the most passionate. Last night Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and Louisiana Democrat Landrieu got into this exchange.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: I think women across this country ought to be outraged — liberal women, moderate, conservative because it’s a slap in the face to every one of them, the way these three are being treated by the other side, and I’ve heard for 27 years how much greater they are for women. Don’t believe it. If they were, they wouldn’t oppose these wonderful women nominees.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU: It is the height of disrespect and un-Americanism to come to this great floor and talk about the pettiness of this woman senator, who spent 25 years in public office, and every woman that’s ever served, that there is something wrong, that I don’t want women as a judge, or I don’t want African Americans to be here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was one of two Democrats who continually has voted in favor of an up-or-down vote on the president’s nominees. But late last night, he questioned the wisdom of it all.

SEN. BEN NELSON: If we can’t agree, then at least we ought to move on. What’s happening during these hours of debate is not about moving the process forward. In fact, what’s being accomplished is just the opposite, setting us back.

KWAME HOLMAN: But, this morning, after the 39 hours of debate, and after Republican efforts to force up-or-down votes on the president’s nominees failed, Majority Leader Bill Frist still was insisting it all had been worth it.

SEN. BILL FRIST: We’ve made huge progress over the last two days, communicating to people in the chamber and people around the world that we cannot accept the unprecedented partisan filibusters of the nominees put forward by the president of the United States.

KWAME HOLMAN: The number of judicial nominees blocked by Senate Democrats now stands at six. Republicans say they suspect there will be more.