- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the escalating fight in the Senate over the filibusters of President Bush’s judicial nominees with his sharpest words yet.

“For more than 200 years, the Senate has exercised this responsibility by voting either to confirm or reject nominations sent up by the president,” he told a gathering of Republican lawyers yesterday. “Recently, however, a minority of senators has turned away from two centuries of practice and begun filibustering judicial nominees.”

Mr. Cheney confirmed what many already assumed: He supports the so-called nuclear option and will perform his parliamentary duty to override the filibusters against judicial nominees, if it comes to that.

“If the Senate majority decides to move forward, and if the issue is presented to me in my elected office as president of the Senate, and presiding officer, I will support bringing those nominations to the floor for an up-or-down vote,” Mr. Cheney said. “On the merits, this should not be a difficult call to make.”

At issue are the seven judiciary nominees whose confirmations Democrats say they will block, arguing they are too conservative for the federal appellate courts. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid accused the Bush administration of going back on a promise to stay out of the judges fight in the Senate.

“Last week, I met with the president and was encouraged when he told me he would not become involved in Republicans’ efforts to break the Senate rules,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Now it appears he was not being honest, and that the White House is encouraging this raw abuse of power.”

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Bill Frist is pressing forward with his plans to take part in tomorrow’s “Justice Sunday” telecast aimed at gaining public support among parishioners for stopping the Democratic filibusters of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Mr. Frist wants to change chamber rules to bar the use of filibusters on judicial nominees. He told The Washington Times he has the 51 votes needed to do so. As the president of the Senate, Mr. Cheney would only vote if there is a tie.

For years, Republicans have accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of blocking court nominees based on their personal religious views on issues such as abortion. Republicans hope that tomorrow’s telecast — piped into churches nationwide — will turn around their stagnant public relations campaign on the issue.

The Tennessee Republican has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and liberal church leaders for his participation in the telecast.

“We are surprised and grieved by a campaign launched this week by Family Research Council and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who said that those who disagree with them on President Bush’s judicial nominees are against people of faith,” said Robert Edgar, general secretary of the liberal National Council of Churches.

“Their attempt to impose on the entire country a narrow, exclusivist, private view of truth is a dangerous, divisive tactic,” he said. “It serves to further polarize our nation, and it disenfranchises and demonizes good people of faith who hold political beliefs that differ from theirs.”

Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church, admonished Mr. Frist that “the First Amendment is good for the church and it’s good for America.”

“We would like to urge Senator Frist to reconsider supporting such movements,” said Mr. Kirkpatrick, who has publicly opposed Mr. Bush and Mr. Frist on homosexual “marriage.”

“We believe that this is a time when religious people need to come together and not to create a climate of divisiveness and it is certainly not a time in which we turn political disagreements into religious conflicts.”

Tomorrow’s “Justice Sunday” will be broadcast at 7 p.m. from Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and be hosted by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

Joining them will be Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, the retired federal judge who was filibustered by Democrats before Mr. Bush “recess appointed” him to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

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