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July 14, 2005
The Breakfast Club Wants A Sequel

The members of the Senate's Gang of 14 that held off the GOP push for the elimination of filibusters on judicial nominations have scheduled a breakfast meeting to further discuss the ramifications of their agreement, the New York Times reports. Sheryl Stolberg reports that the Gang wants to remain unified to ensure a smooth process on the upcoming confirmation fight, but that appears easier said than done:

With the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - and renewed speculation that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer and was in the hospital Wednesday with a fever, could retire - the members of the Gang of 14 are trying to chart a course that would keep them unified in the event of a divisive Supreme Court confirmation fight.

On Thursday, they are planning to meet for breakfast to do just that. If the gang sticks together, it could become a powerful force - so powerful that some of its members, including Mr. Warner, have insisted that the group steer clear of issues beyond the judiciary, for fear of becoming a kind of shadow leadership.

But the gang, which Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, likens to "emergency standby equipment in the Senate," faces pitfalls that could cause it to splinter. Its members are under intense scrutiny both in the Capitol and at home, where some, particularly Republicans like Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike DeWine of Ohio, are suffering political repercussions for crossing conservatives to join.

The two halves of the Gang met separately earlier this week to plan their strategies, and both face tremendous political pressure to splinter away. The GOP members face the most extraordinary pressure, having given away a winning option for the promise of "comity" that the Democrats immediately ignored with the confirmation filibuster of John Bolton. Despite their denials, the Seven GOP Dwarves had argued that a compromise on the judiciary would relieve overall tension in the Senate and allow for easier and more friendly cross-aisle relations. Having Bolton shut down twice exposed that notion as a farce, and a successful filibuster will end some Senate careers.

Two Republicans seem especially vulnerable. Mike DeWine of Ohio saw his son lose badly in his primary fight, which until DeWine pere jumped ship on the Byrd option, looked well within his grasp. (Pat DeWine wound up finishing fourth, far out of contention.) Lindsay Graham learned that playing puppy-dog to John McCain does not sit well with South Carolina Republicans, who elected him to help guarantee judicial confirmations, not throw candidates like Henry Saad under the bus.

What this shows is that the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Gang did nothing but kick the can down the road. Democratic Party leaders have continued to ratchet up the rhetoric and their demands, with Schumer claiming that the President owes them a list of people for the minority party to vet. Even McCain had to speak out after that, scolding Democrats for ignoring the elections that put them clearly in the minority. In the end, we will face the same fight, only months later and probably with the same harried vote-counting that preceded the MOU. The only gain made was to the egos of 14 Senators who got the best press coverage of their lives. And that, sadly, was probably all that mattered to them in the first place.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 14, 2005 7:20 AM

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» Supreme Court Battle Shapes Up from Secure Liberty
With news that Chief Justice Rehnquist has been hospitalized again, I have one comment for President Bush, what are you waiting for? O'Connor and Rehnquist did conservatives a favor by having O'Connor retire first, with Rhnquist likely to follow. But... [Read More]

Tracked on July 14, 2005 8:32 AM

» The Gang of 14 rides again. from The Buzz Blog
With the President poised to nominate one (maybe two or three) person to sit on the Supreme Court, the famous “Gang of 14″ has resurrected itself and is ready to ride again. Captain Ed reports: The two halves of the Gang met separately... [Read More]

Tracked on July 14, 2005 4:10 PM

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