Day By Day

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Specter Speaks

The Senate debate over judicial nominations is taking place today on C-SPAN. Frist and Reid have spoken, laying out their parties' positions. Pricilla Owens is up first.

Now it starts to get interesting. Sen. Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania is now speaking. This is a crucial one. He not only chairs the Judicial Committee, but he is a prominent member of the small group of northeastern "moderates" who hold the swing votes in inter-party fights, many of whom have reservations about the "nuclear" option. If he opposes it, things could be very tough for the administration.

He says this is all about partisan politics. That the Democrats have played dirty, but so have Republicans. If the nuclear option fails the Democrats would use the filibuster promiscuously and irresponsibly. Its success would threaten the balance of power between the branches. He refuses to take a position -- arguing that either option is undesirable. He says that the best guarantee of a moderate outcome is ambiguity and the individual negotiations among Senators that it engenders. [Here I agree with that.]

He has been insulted by the partisan ads being produced by both parties. Says they are counterproductive.

He knows that many members of both parties are upset at the decisions of the leadership. He calls on both of them to release their members for an up and down vote. Basically he is telling the Democrats to back off before things start to get destructive. The problem here is enforced party loyalty on both sides.

He now is pronouncing "nuclear" as "nucular". [Hmmmmm.]

The Democrats' offer to confirm a part of the Republican list is insulting and cynical. Each nominee deserves individual consideration and an up or down vote.

Individual senators must be free to vote their consciences. Party loyalty undermines the integrity of the Senate.

I'm impressed. He is now denouncing logrolling in general.

So far neither of the leaders is negotiating in good faith. Both are being urged on by the far left and far right.

A bipartisan group of moderates has met with the leaders. They are calling for a floor vote on each nominee [and expect that most, but not all, will be confirmed]. Specter says anything else will be destructive.

He is now plumping for Pricilla Owens.

I am a Pennsylvanian, and never thought I'd say this, but Arlen Specter is doing us proud.

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