In a press conference on Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that he is not in support of proposed rule changes to limit the power of the Democratic minority in blocking radically conservative judicial nominees. Over the past several months, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has threatened to employ a “nuclear option” which would end the use of a filibuster on judicial nominations by requiring only a simple 51-vote majority. There are currently 55 Republican members in the Senate; it takes 60 votes to overturn a filibuster.
“I’m going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option,” Specter said. “If we have a nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil, and the Judiciary Committee will be hell.” Specter also encouraged President Bush to consult with both parties before nominating a Supreme Court Justice, and to seek out a nominee who could be “universally accepted,” the Washington Post reports.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week to consider William G. Myers III, the first of seven judicial nominees resubmitted by Bush after having been blocked by Democrats during his first term. The Los Angeles Times reports that Specter is starting with Myers because Specter believes he has more support among Democrats than the other nominees. Myers has been renominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a lifetime seat, and in the past has praised what he considers the Supreme Court’s “retreat” from the protection of privacy, on which the rights to birth control and abortion rest.
Immediately following last year’s presidential election, Specter cautioned President Bush not to make any far-right nominations to the US Supreme Court, especially those who would overturn Roe v Wade, a move which nearly cost him his current position of chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The President is well aware of what happened, when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster,” Specter told the Washington Post last November. “When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely.”
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