Friday, April 22, 2005


Judicial filibuster showdown next week? Perhaps not...

Bloggers and news stories alike have signed off on the notion that the showdown in the Senate over the "nuclear option" should go down next week. However, this story in The Hill says that may not be the case, with Senator Rick Santorum not liking what he is seeing in the internal polling numbers. As Manuel Miranda, formerly of Bill Frist's staff and currently head of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters, says in the article, Santorum has played and will continue to play a big part in this effort for the GOP. If he doesn't like what he is seeing, then there is a good chance that this fight might have to be rescheduled for mid-May, as the Senate is not in session during the first week of May.

The decision will ultimately rest with Bill Frist, and he has to be extremely careful with how he handles this process. Rightly or wrongly, the changing of the Senate rules is the legacy that Bill Frist will leave as Senate Majority Leader. If he fails, he will not garner enough support for a presidential bid in 2008 no matter how much money he can bankroll. The conservatives will feel that he let them down, while the moderates will see him as weak and ineffectual - a crushing combination. Santorum has a great deal at stake, too, but it remains to be seen how this issue will play in his 2006 re-election bid. More than likely, whatever happens will be the wrong outcome in the eyes of his opponent, but it's how the people of Pennsylvania view the result that matters.

It is disappointing to see this dragging on like it has, but the Democrats have been extremely effective at pushing or at least assisting other issues (Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay, oil prices) to the forefront and at controlling the language of the debate. They seized upon the Republicans' poor choice at labeling the rule change as the "nuclear option." After all, everyone knows that anything "nuclear" is bad - even if it is the best energy source and the best military deterrent in our arsenal. Maybe Frist and Santorum would be best served to wait until the season of "24" is over so that nukes are off of the American electorate's mind before bringing up the rules change...

MORE: What's worse than "nuclear?" Did Democrats support the "apocalyptic option" only a decade ago?

STILL MORE: Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times recalls how liberal Democrats have flip-flopped on filibusters over the years, with specific accounts of Senator Robert Byrd changing the rules during debate on actual legislation - not just judicial nominations - while Senate Majority Leader.

What are they waiting on. Good grief. Frist needs to act like the majority leader instead of the minority leader.
I agree with you, Glen Dean - at least I did earlier in the year. Frist would have been best served to strike while the iron was hot and the loss by Dashcle was fresh in everyone's memory. He waited - and then Bush started in on Social Security. And Terri Schiavo became a national headline. And the Michael Jackson trial began. And the Pope died. And a new Pope was elected. If Frist wants to make this a critical issue, he has to have the country's attention. By not striking decisively and quickly, he missed his chance. If Santorum doesn't believe the time is right now, then I defer to him on the issue, but they had better not wait too long, because many are becoming inpatient - and Frist is squarely in the crosshairs.
As a veteran of Washington, do you think that Santorum hurt his base support by backing RINO Arlen Spector in the Republican primary last year?
Initially, I thought that Santorum (as well as Bush) were playing with fire by backing Specter over the extremely likeable Pat Toomey. I honestly believe that Toomey would be sitting in the Senate right now if it wasn't for Bush and Santorum's campaigning for Specter, because the race really was that close.

However, there is one state in the Union that I can't seem to get a handle on, and that is Pennsylvania. Their Senators and reps in Congress are ideologically opposed but mostly Republican, yet they have one of the most liberal governors in the nation in Ed Rendell. The two power bases are liberal centers Pittsburgh and Philly, but Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of membership in the NRA per capita.

I tried to talk GOP Co-Chair Ann Wagner into waging more of a war in Pennsylvania in 2004. I was unsuccessful, and, given the results, it is hard to argue that she wasn't right. So my track record regarding Pennsylvania is not very good.

The latest polls show Santorum in a big hole (14 points) to PA State Treasurer Robert Casey as of last week, but polls taken this far out aren't worth that much, especially when the incumbant hasn't even begun to defend his seat. I think that Santorum's base certainly faces fracture because Casey is pro-life, and taking that away from Santorum as a campaign issue doesn't help his cause. One thing that could really help Santorum would be if it appears that he could be the next Senate Majority Leader after Frist steps down. It would be hard for Pennsylvanians to vote out Santorum at that point, if purely for financial reasons.
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