- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

Within their eight-member contingent on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the number of Democrats who voted against John Roberts to be chief justice exceeded the number of Republicans in the entire Senate caucus who opposed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 1993 nomination. Five of the Democrats’ eight committee members opposed Judge Roberts, a conservative who would replace the late William Rehnquist, who arguably was more conservative. Twelve years ago, only three of the 44 Republican senators voted against Justice Ginsburg, the extremely liberal former general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union who replaced the centrist Byron White.

Committee Democrats who opposed Judge Roberts included Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin — all of whom voted against Judge Roberts in committee in 2003 after he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the third time. Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden, who refused to hold hearings for Judge Roberts when he was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit in January 1992, also voted against Judge Roberts on Thursday, as did Dianne Feinstein of California. Compared to the 13-5 vote for Judge Roberts, Justice Ginsburg sailed through the Judiciary Committee in 1993 with unanimous support on her way to a 96-3 mega-margin on the Senate floor.

Especially interesting was the vote of Russ Feingold, whose generally impeccable liberal credentials are confirmed by his 100 percent 2004 rating from Americans for Democratic Action. Because of the courageous, principled vote that he cast for Judge Roberts despite the vehement objections of the liberal interest groups, Mr. Feingold, who reportedly has entertained presidential aspirations, can probably kiss those good-bye, according to the conventional wisdom. With Mr. Biden, who never lost the presidential bug, voting no and with the interminably ambitious John Kerry and the front-running Hillary Clinton certain to follow on the Senate floor, one can imagine the give-and-take in the 2007-08 primary/caucus debates. Mrs. Clinton and Messrs. Biden and Kerry (and Evan Bayh from the red state of Indiana, should he oppose Judge Roberts, to say nothing of the still-ambitious John Edwards) would undoubtedly gang up on Mr. Feingold for his vote for Judge Roberts. As the audience hoots and hollers, how might Mr. Feingold respond? Well, he could say something like this: “On Oct. 11, 2002, I voted against authorizing the use of force against Iraq. All of you voted the other way.” That’s the kind of line from an intra-Democratic debate that could turn jeers into cheers.

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