- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It became the war of the props yesterday in the Senate as Republicans and Democrats blamed one another for the impasse over President Bush’s judicial nominations.

Republicans wheeled dozens of cots with mattresses into the Capitol yesterday to demonstrate their resolve in talking all night and day about the four filibusters 45 Democrats have waged against Mr. Bush’s nominees.

The 30-hour talkathon, which began at 6 p.m. yesterday and is scheduled to go through midnight tonight, won’t force the issue and probably won’t sway any votes. But Republicans scheduled it to try to draw national attention to what they say is an unprecedented blockade of the nominees.

Democrats responded with T-shirts pointing out that they’ve filibustered four of Mr. Bush’s nominees but confirmed 168.

“We confirmed 98 percent of Bush’s judges,” is printed on the front of the shirt. The back reads: “And all we got was this lousy T-shirt.”

One Republican staffer retorted: “The senator’s oath of office requires a 100 percent compliance with the Constitution. My wife would not be happy if I told her I was 98 percent faithful.”

One legislator who wasn’t laughing was Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who awoke yesterday morning with almost no voice.

“I apologize for sounding a little bit like a frog this morning, but I have laryngitis,” he croaked at a morning press conference. “Fine day to have that.”

Mr. Hatch said the current situation is a “constitutional disaster waiting to happen.” By demanding cloture votes — a parliamentary procedure to shut off debate before a final vote — the 45 Democrats are essentially creating a new requirement for confirmations of 60 votes, the number required to win cloture.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, called the 30 hours of floor time “a colossal waste of time.”

“We only wish they would devote the kind of attention they are to these 30 hours to the matters that the American people care most about,” Mr. Daschle said. “They care a lot about the fact that 3 million of them don’t have jobs. They care a lot about the fact that their health insurance is rising by more than 15 percent a year.”

Before the talk marathon began, Republican senators gathered in the office of Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. At 6 p.m. sharp, they marched out of the office, down the hallway through a bevy of cameras and into the Senate chamber.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, strode in with a protest sign on which he scribbled in red ink: “I’ll be home watching ‘The Bachelor.’”

Several guards approached him as if removing a protester before realizing he was a senator and backed off.

“I’m not taking part in this circus,” Mr. Harkin said before walking off with his sign.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, struck a more serious tone. Throughout the Senate’s long and storied history and even through the Civil War, he said, “never once did that partisanship get so heated during these great, crucial times in our nation’s history that the minority felt they had to change the rules of the game for advantage.”

“A small band [of Democrats] have decided to corrupt this great institution,” he continued. “It is worth talking about. It is worth fighting for. It is worth spending a few sleepless nights. It’s worth it.”

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