Senate Republicans this week have stepped up their attempts to intimidate Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) into scheduling votes for President Bush’s pending judicial nominees. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee initiated discussions Tuesday with conservative allies, suggesting that Republicans might go so far as “shutting down the Senate” if they don’t get their way.
Apparently conservative strategists are hoping they can use the issue of judges to energize their base – particularly ultra-radicals who were put off by Sen. John McCain’s (R-Az.) participation in the so-called “Gang of 14.” Sen. McCain himself, eager to prove his conservative credentials has even responded to Specter’s proposition by stating that he is “willing to assist in any way he can to move forward the confirmation of the president’s judicial nominees.”
So far however, Senators Leahy and Reid, with the support of Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) seem to be holding strong in their convictions. According to The Hill, Sen. Leahy fired back at Sen. Specter’s allegations of foul play, pointing out that “Republican complaints ‘ring hollow’…the Senate has moved to approve an ‘overwhelming majority’ of Bush’s nominees – confirming more than 86 percent of those nominees, compared to the less than 75 percent of Clinton nominees approved by the GOP-controlled Senate.”
Let’s hope that Senate leadership continues to resist pressure from movement conservatives looking to score cheap political points. The fact is, Bush has consistently put up right - wing ideologues for positions on the federal bench and Senate Democrats should stand up for a fair judiciary and continue to resist further attempts to pack our courts. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) claimed that “if [Democrats] really want to play the political game on judges, Republicans will win.” Sounds like Bush and his allies are the ones looking to play games with the courts.