- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Senate will take up President Bush’s filibustered judicial nominations next week, and Republican staffers say the ensuing debate will ultimately end with a showdown — perhaps even the use of the so-called “nuclear option” — if one side doesn’t back down.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, has threatened to end the impasse over seven judges with the rare parliamentary procedure that would prohibit filibusters against judicial nominees. And earlier this year, he told The Washington Times he had the 51 votes to do so.

But yesterday marked the first time he has offered any timeline for using the maneuver.

“It’s time for us to move to the issue of judges,” Mr. Frist said. “Each of these nominees deserve an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. Confirm them or reject them, vote yes or no, but allow them the courtesy of a vote.”

Later, Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, rejected a proposal Mr. Frist offered two weeks ago to avoid the major fight in the Senate. The proposal would have called for a vote on those nominees in exchange for prohibiting future nominees from obstruction in committee, as often happened during the Clinton administration.

“Sen. Frist’s proposal does nothing to end the judicial impasse, as it would wipe away the very checks and balances that have prevented an abuse of power for more than 200 years,” Mr. Reid said. “The result is unacceptable.”

While senators on both sides of the aisle continue to try finding a way to avoid the nuclear option, Mr. Frist and Mr. Reid have made no headway in their negotiations.

After dismissing Mr. Frist’s offer — which Mr. Reid termed “a big wet kiss to the far right” — he said he won’t consider a plan that confirms all the filibustered nominees.

Mr. Reid is willing, however, to broker a deal on the five nominees that Democrats adamantly oppose.

“I’ve said that they can pick one of the five, whatever one of the five they want,” he said yesterday. “That leaves four that wouldn’t be accepted.”

Such offers have been dismissed by Republicans.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said earlier this week that “such deal-making confirms public cynicism about what goes on behind Washington’s closed doors.”

One of those looking for a compromise is Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who has suggested Democrats grant a vote on just some of the judges.

Talk of compromise has brought criticism from conservatives, such as the Mississippi-based American Family Association.

“This is exactly the kind of compromise the liberals have been looking for,” said Donald Wildmon, chairman of the group. “Sen. Lott’s proposal will do nothing but allow the liberals to still be in control. The vote to end the judicial filibuster is the most important vote in the Senate this year, and Lott’s proposal means we lose.”

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