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July 20, 2005
Democrats Signal Filibuster Unlikely

Some Senate Democrats signaled today that they will not likely support any attempt to filibuster SCOTUS nominee John Roberts, at least not based on his judicial philosophy. The AP reports that two key Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Joe Lieberman, have characterized Roberts as mainstream enough not to invoke the "extraordinary circumstances" envisaged by the Gang of 14:

The possibility of a Democratic filibuster against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in the Republican-controlled Senate seemed to all but disappear Wednesday. ...

"Do I believe this is a filibuster-able nominee? The answer would be no, not at this time I don't," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a strong abortion-rights supporter and a committee member. ...

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the group had sent a message to the president to send the Senate a mainstream conservative. "And it appears at first look that Judge Roberts is that," he said.

Roberts is "in the ballpark of a nonconfrontational nominee," Lieberman added.

It will take more than two Democratic defections to ensure that a filibuster fails, of course, but Feinstein and Lieberman carry a lot of weight in the Democratic caucus. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas would not risk their standing with their red-state constituents by acting more liberal than Feinstein, and likely neither would Byron Dorgan of North Dakota or Max Baucus of Montana. This doesn't preclude the possibility of them changing their minds on the pretext of an Estrada strategy, where the filibuster comes as a procedural matter to force more disclosure from the White House. Given the high-profile nature of these hearings, however, and the general likability of the nominee (as opposed to John Bolton), that pretext probably won't fly.

We should all be able to look forward to an up-or-down vote for Roberts at some point. This doesn't mean that the confirmation process will go smoothly or quietly, but it will mean that it won't go on interminably. At least that's an improvement over the last three years.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 20, 2005 7:18 PM

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