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Posted by on Apr 21, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Prominent GOP Senator Yells “WHOA!” On The ‘Nuclear Option”

Pennyslvania Senator Rick Santorum has suddenly developed a political change of heart whether GOPers should exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and whack judicial filibusters on judicial issues.

Perhaps the Senator’s facing a tough re-election race in his homestate has something to do with it. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t like the political Kool Aid that his charismatic leader Bill Frist and others are handing out to members of his party. And perhaps he has taken a view of the NEW political context in which this elimination of a Senate tradition to protect the rights of the minority is being proposed. In any event, we see this from The Hill:

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a leading advocate of the “nuclear option� to end the Democrats’ filibuster of judicial nominees, is privately arguing for a delay in the face of adverse internal party polls.

Details of the polling numbers remain under wraps, but Santorum and other Senate sources concede that, while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster, the figures show that most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate.

How could any Americans get that idea — including the moderate Republicans who email this site or leave comments? How can law professors who tirelessly backed former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment but now oppose this change to shove all of President Bush’s judicial appointments through get that idea? (It must be the liberal news media..) More:

The Republicans are keeping the “nuclear� poll numbers secret, whereas they have often in the past been keen to release internal survey results that favor the party. David Winston, head of the Winston Group, which conducts Senate GOP polls, did return phone calls seeking comment.

Wait a minute. Are you suggesting that they’re not releasing these polls because they aren’t favorable to what they want to do? More:

Confirming public disquiet over the “nuclear� or “constitutional� option, Santorum said, “Our polling shows that.� But, he added, public thinking had been muddied by what he called false Democratic arguments that checks and balances were being eroded.


“People see checks and balances as Democrats checking Republicans, not the legislative checking the executive or the judiciary checking the legislative,� Santorum said. Filibustering presidential nominees was not something the Founding Fathers envisioned as a tool for balancing power between the branches, he argued. In other words, Democrats have managed to convince the public of their right to check Republicans in the Senate.

Rick: you need to blame all of this on Bill Clinton. You left that part out…..

Santorum’s raising of reasons that Republicans should delay the constitutional option may surprise conservative activists who count him as one of the most passionate advocates for the tactic in the Senate.

Let’s give the Senator the reasons why people feel uneasy about the nuclear option. It’s the CONTEXT, as much as the proposal at this point.

If this had happened without certain other things having happened, the GOP could probably shove it through and there would be fury on the part of partisan Democrats, condemnations from the left and perhaps some erosion of support among independents.

But now this is coming in the context of these events:

  • The Terri Shiavo case, which many felt was unprecedented interference by the Congress and President showing a shocking disdain for separation of powers. And polls showed that Americans of all ages, political persuasions and religions felt it the Congress and President should not have gotten involved and were unhappy they did.
  • Seeming threats to the judiciary that at times sounded like thinly-veiled invitations for nutcases to take potshots at judges. Those who made them later stepped back from them. But they made big headlines — and these wreckless statements did not come from Democrats, independents, or from libertarian Republicans.
  • The Tom DeLay scandals and continuing headlines not just about allegations surrounding his junkets (politicos can survive that kind of thing) but about hanky-panky on the part of the Republicans to either not hold an ethics hearing on his case or change the rules so it’s meaningless and just pro forma to hold it. DeLay is to the GOP’s image what an iceberg was to the Titanic.

The context of all this can be summed up in the word “hubris.”

The GOP could get the votes and win on this. But if it does win it could lose a lot more in the longrun. And if it wins this vote there’s an excellent chance the Senator will be sending resumes out come November, and probably land some nice, new job as a highly-paid lobbyist.

Also read out previous post on this subject here.

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