SEN. BILL FRIST: Good evening to all of you.
KWAME HOLMAN: Appearing on tape before a religious rally in Louisville last night, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asked 3,000 Christian conservatives in attendance to join the fight to approve President Bush's stalled judicial nominations.
SEN. BILL FRIST: I hope you'll call your senators and remind them, whether they're Republican or Democrat, that they work for you. Tell them to do their job. Give judicial nominees the "up-or-down" votes they deserve.
KWAME HOLMAN: Denouncing Senate Democrats for using the filibuster to block ten of the president's choices for the federal bench, Frist singled out their leader.
SEN. BILL FRIST: My Democratic counterpart, Sen. Reid, calls me a radical Republican. I don't think it's radical to ask senators to vote. I don't think it's radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. Now, if Sen. Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the "nuclear option."
KWAME HOLMAN: That nuclear option, which Republicans now call the constitutional option, refers to their plan to strip Democrats of the ability to filibuster judicial nominees. The 55-strong Republican majority would change Senate rules to allow judicial approvals by a simple majority vote.
Democrats have said they will respond by using procedural delays to shut down the business of the Senate. Majority Leader Frist's participation in the telecast, dubbed Justice Sunday, was widely criticized in the days before because of its controversial theme that judicial filibusters are being used against people of faith.
In his remarks, Frist did not mention religious faith, but he did seem to distance himself from recent remarks made by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who said judges should be held accountable when their decisions offend religious conservatives.
SEN. BILL FRIST: When we think judicial decisions are outside mainstream American values, we will say so. But we must also be clear that the balance of power among all three branches requires respect, not retaliation. I won't go along with that.
KWAME HOLMAN: But other speakers, including Dr. James Dobson of the sponsoring group Focus on the Family, defended Tom Delay and the concept of holding the judiciary to account.
SPOKESMAN: There is a majority on the Supreme Court that is unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out of control.
KWAME HOLMAN: Frist still has not said when or if he'll exercise the so-called "nuclear option." But Senate Republican leaders say they now have the votes it would take to end the judicial filibuster.