Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sen. Lindsay Graham, the South Carolina Republican who helped craft the compromise that effectively scuttles several of President Bush’s judicial nominees and saves others, said he hopes the White House has learned a lesson.

“The White House has to more closely collaborate with the Senate,” Mr. Graham said, adding that if Mr. Bush had employed a little more personal charm and politics, he might have had his way.

“If we talk more, we’ll get a better result,” Mr. Graham said. “Talking helps. This president is a wonderful person to speak to in person. I think this gives [Mr. Bush] a fresh start.”

Manuel Miranda, director of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters and former Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, said Mr. Bush did not work hard enough to get votes for all his nominees, and didn’t keep Republicans in line and defeat the minority Democrats.

“This is a loss for the White House bigger than any loss on Social Security,” Mr. Miranda said. “[The White House] did not weigh in and every president in the future has been damaged.

“These were the president’s nominees and the presidency’s prerogative,” he said. “The White House needed to invest action, not just words.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan conceded that the president didn’t get all that he wanted — and he will continue to push for the full Senate to vote on all his judicial nominees — but that Mr. Bush is generally pleased with the development.

“These are nominees that have waited for a number of years to receive an up-or-down vote, and now they’re going to get one,” Mr. McClellan said. “We consider that to be real progress, and so we’re pleased that the Senate is moving forward on these judicial nominees.”

Conservative activists, however, were still fuming yesterday, and said the White House should share in the blame for a deal that still leaves open the possibility that the Democrats will filibuster future Supreme Court nominees.

“I wish the president had done more,” said Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly. “He has the biggest megaphone of all.”

Mrs. Schlafly said much of the press repeated, without challenge, the Democrats’ line that the change in the rules on filibustering judicial candidates would have violated more than 200 years of Senate tradition.

“That Democrat line was a lie,” Mrs. Schlafly said, adding that the president could have done more to counteract that.

She also said that Mr. Bush should have been able to keep at least two Republican senators, Mr. Graham and Mike DeWine of Ohio, from deserting the leadership and joining Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, on the side of a filibuster compromise.

The Monday agreement between seven Republicans and seven Democrats averted a showdown over judicial filibusters. The Democrats agreed to votes on three of the five blocked nominees in exchange for the Republicans dropping support of a rules change to allow a floor vote on all the nominees.

American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene called the compromise “a direct assault on prerogatives of the president of United States.”

“If you listened to what the senators [who participated in the deal] were saying at their press conference, it’s that from now on Bush will have to vet prospective nominees with the members of the Senate before he sends them any nominees,” Mr. Keene said.

“[They] would view the president’s failure to do that as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that would allow them to filibuster,” Mr. Keene said.

James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, said the deal “represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats.”

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