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July 13, 2005
Unprecedented Consultation Not Enough; Schumer Wants A 'Summit'

Senate Democrats, relying on a single instance where Bill Clinton asked Judiciary Committee chair Orrin Hatch his opinion on a potential nominee, have demanded that President Bush "consult" with them before selecting a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Bush has now contacted 60 senators to get their input on the nomination, far exceeding what Clinton or any other President has done in the past -- and yet the Democrats still complain that it's not enough:

White House officials and Senate Republicans have already declared that the outreach to lawmakers about the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is unprecedented, with more than 60 senators contacted or consulted about the choice. "He has gone way beyond what any president has ever done," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

But Democrats are trying to establish their own standard for the consultation, with demands likely to increase. Unless Bush shares the names of potential nominees, they say, the process will have been a charade that could affect the confirmation battle. "There has to be more consultation," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said after the meeting. "This was only a first step."

It's only a first step towards building an excuse for another filibuster. The Democrats want to hold a veto over a list of candidates supplied by Bush in order to get the nominee they want, or more accurately, to block those they don't. The pouty reactions from Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer illustrate this:

"He didn't give us any names," Mr. Reid told reporters after the meeting. ...

[A]nother Judiciary member, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, took to the Senate floor yesterday to criticize the White House effort.

"For consultation to work, and we all want it to work, the president should suggest some names and get the opinion of those of us in the Senate," he said. The senator also suggested the president convene a summit at Camp David or "a dinner at the White House" to privately discuss the nomination.

A summit? Perhaps Schumer has listened to the Cold War rhetoric emanating from the Left too long, but Presidents do not hold summits with partisan hacks over executive nominations. The very use of the term, popularized by the press for meetings between American presidents and Communist heads of state, serves as an ironic and revealing look into the mind of Schumer and his political allies. They don't see themselves as a loyal opposition or an opposition of any sort. They see themselves as the mortal enemies of the administration and want to do everything possible to obstruct its exercise of Constitutional duty.

Even John McCain appears to have had enough with Democratic intransigence, although a healthy dose of survival instinct may have been in play with these remarks:

This point was endorsed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a Republican who helped broker a pact with Senate Democrats to move forward on several stalled lower-court judicial nominees.

"During the campaign, President Bush said he will appoint judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution," the senator said in Dallas. "Thinking anything else is either amnesia or ignorance. ... Whomever he nominates deserves an up or down vote and no filibuster," Mr. McCain said. "And an up or down vote is what we will have."

McCain understands that a filibuster after his highly-publicized Gang of 14 hijacking of the Senate will doom his political career. He argued that the MOU cleared the way for Bush to get confirmation votes on his nominees. With Bush going out of his way to consult a wide selection of Senators on the SCOTUS opening, McCain knows that the quid pro quo will be an up-or-down vote. If McCain doesn't deliver that, then the MOU wasted an opportunity to return the Senate to over 200 years of tradition -- and since McCain couldn't wait to jump in front of the cameras to claim credit for the MOU, his career will sink right along with the Gang of 14 he corralled for it.

Knowing this, McCain will have no choice but to get back on the reservation and demand that the Senate block any attempt at filibustering, no matter who gets nominated to O'Connor's seat. He cannot tolerate demands for "summits" as a new requirement for the President to get a vote for his nominee. And as McCain goes, so go the rest of the GOP's Seven Dwarves on this issue. That means the Byrd option will come back into play if the Democrats attempt to push this to a filibuster -- and the Democrats will lose that as their last piece of leverage.

Consultation time should be over. The pieces are in place. Bush needs only to submit the nomination of a clear conservative to SCOTUS; the field is clear for victory.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 13, 2005 5:59 AM

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