In a move aimed at blocking filibusters of right-wing judges, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved yesterday a GOP leadership proposal to curtail filibusters on presidential nominations. With no Democrats present at the meeting, all 10 Republicans on the committee voted to approve Senator Bill Frist’s (R-TN) proposal, S. Res.138, which gradually decreases the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster on a presidential nominee.
In light of important federal appeals court vacancies and a rumored upcoming Supreme Court vacancy, partisan tensions are running high on this issue. Republicans claim that by blocking executive nominations, Democrats are creating a constitutional crisis. But Democrats argue that some of the President’s nominees are so far to the right of mainstream America that they have no choice but to filibuster. Democrats have also pointed out that two filibustered judicial nominees hardly indicates a crisis when 131 have already been confirmed, according to the Washington Post.
Democrats denied that the absence of all nine Democratic committee members was a boycott, but indicated they would do everything in their power to stop the rules change, including filibustering it when it reaches the full Senate for a vote, the Post reported. Senator Frist did not say when he plans to bring the proposal to the floor for a vote, and in the closely divided Senate, he will most likely lack the 67 votes needed to pass the resolution. But he promised to keep pushing for the rules change and, if necessary, use “all avenues” to overcome the Democratic tactics he considers unconstitutional, the New York Times reported. Rules Committee Chair Trent Lott (R-MS) was even more confrontational. “We are going to find out,” said Lott, “if we are men or mice sooner or later,” according to the Times.