- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

A Senate Republican leader warned yesterday that Republicans will filibuster and block Democrats from having a one-vote majority on committees unless Democrats allow all of President Bushs judicial and executive nominations to come up for votes on the Senate floor.
"If we dont get that assurance, or some assurance in this vein, then I think were going to have a hard time organizing," said Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Republican Conference Committee, on "Fox News Sunday."
Mr. Santorum, also a member of the Rules and Administration Committee, made his comments three days before the Democrats are slated to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans. The shift in power is a result of the defection by Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican Party. Mr. Jeffords announced on May 24 he will become an independent but vote with the Democratic caucus.
"Were willing to give [the Democrats] a one-seat majority [on committees] … but what we want in exchange for that is really some protection that government can continue to function … that executive appointments and [judicial] nominees will, at least, have a fair opportunity to be heard on the United States Senate floor," said Mr. Santorum.
He added that Republican lawmakers are not demanding that the nominees be confirmed. Republicans just want them to "have the opportunity to be voted on," Mr. Santorum said.
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, who also appeared on Fox, said he could not give that assurance "with respect to every nominee." But he insisted Democrats want to work with congressional Republicans and the administration as much as possible.
However, Mr. Santorum said Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, who will chair the Judiciary Committee, seems to be saying, "'If you're a conservative, youre not qualified." That "kind of litmus test is not acceptable," said the Pennsylvania Republican.
From the start, Republicans have said they recognize that Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota will become majority leader and that Democrats will become chairmen of the Senates committees when Mr. Jeffords makes his party switch effective tomorrow.
But top aides have privately warned that any changes beyond those could be subject to a Republican filibuster — setting the stage for a political showdown between Senate Republicans and Democrats.
Yesterday, Mr. Santorum publicly laid out the deal Republicans are insisting on. While never using the word "filibuster," he acknowledged that, unless Democrats provide some protection for the presidents judicial and executive nominees, he favors Republicans maintaining their domination of the committee structure — despite the Democrats control of the Senate. Republican-dominated committees would result from a Republican filibuster of the proposed Senate reorganization.
On Fox, Brit Hume, managing editor of Foxs Washington bureau, spelled out what could happen as a result of such a filibuster. He said the Republicans "can actually have the kind of Senate organization they had last year, which means 11 incoming senators who wouldnt be on any committees, and Republicans would actually command a majority on a number of key committees, even though there would be Democratic chairmen."
Mr. Hume asked Mr. Santorum if Republicans could accept such an arrangement. Mr. Santorum said yes.
"Were willing to be reasonable … but if thats what the Democrats want to have as the action, then thats what will occur," the Pennsylvania Republican said.
But Mr. Dorgan said he does not foresee a filibuster "this week," because it would mean incoming freshmen of both parties would be denied committee assignments.
On ABCs "This Week," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and outgoing chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he is worried there will be a "slowdown" in the Senate with regard to Mr. Bushs judicial nominations, now that the Democrats will be in the majority.
"And thats going to be devastating to our country," he said.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who will become chairman of the Judiciarys Court subcommittee, denied any intent to "use dilatory tactics" in handling Mr. Bushs nominees for judgeships.
"All we want to do is carefully examine the nominees records," said Mr. Schumer on ABC.
Since the Bush White House removed the American Bar Association (ABA) as an official part of the nomination process, Mr. Schumer said, "Theres virtually no vetting process outside the White House … so we will ask the bar association to thoroughly review each candidate, and we will not bring them for a hearing until that review occurs."
Mr. Schumer said the review should take three or four weeks. But he held that three or four weeks "is not too much to ask, when youre making lifetime appointments."
"Once the vetting process goes forward, we will move forward with the nominees. We do not want to slow them down," he said.
Mr. Hatch said Republicans also planned to have vetting by the ABA, just so long as it was not part of the official nominating process. He stressed that Republicans "always said senators could give whatever weight they wanted" to the ABAs recommendations.
Yesterdays comments by Mr. Santorum and Mr. Hatch come after a memorandum was sent on the weekend to Republican senators by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott saying Republicans must wage a "war" to regain control of the Senate.
Mr. Lott urged Republicans to instigate an "aggressive offense" to make sure that the Republican agenda on tax cuts, trimming the size of government and education reform is enacted. Mr. Bush has said that appointing conservatives to the judiciary is important to his administration.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide