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September 27, 2005
Roberts -- In With A Whimper

The massive effort to derail the John Roberts nomination will end, in the words of TS Eliot, not with a bang but a whimper on Thursday. The New York Times reports that debate opened in the full Senate yesterday and that the Democrats did not attempt to fight cloture, allowing Bill Frist and the GOP to schedule the vote for 11:30 AM on the 29th, as predicted last week:

There were no surprises as the floor deliberations on Judge Roberts began, and Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that a vote should come no later than Thursday. Lawmakers restated their reasoning on the nomination and emphasized the import and unique opportunity of voting on the lifetime appointment of a chief justice. ...

With Republicans solidly backing Judge Roberts and Democrats divided, he has easily surpassed the threshold for confirmation. And Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, on Monday eliminated the prospect that Democrats might seek to stall the vote through any procedural effort, saying they would be ready to vote by Thursday.

The Democrats may have finally discovered that the longer they fought against Roberts, the more ridiculous and partisan they appeared. Reid made a comment that the Judiciary Committee had done the "heavy lifting" on the confirmation, meaning that he didn't see any need to prolong the debate or delay Roberts' ascension to the Supreme Court. Roberts will probably only get about a third of the Democratic votes in the Senate -- at best, he will only have 75 for his confirmation -- but that more than guarantees that grandstanding stunts will flop rather spectacularly if attempted.

The Democrats will instead lick their wounds and attempt to show that they can be reasonable in an effort to influence the White House to select a moderate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush hinted strongly yesterday that he wanted a woman to take her seat on the bench, and he has several candidates from which to choose -- but probably none of which will thrill Reid or his caucus one bit. Two of the most-mentioned names got their current bench assignments this summer thanks to a shabby compromise that temporarily transferred de facto power over nominations to a superminority of fourteen Senators, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, and a third (Edith Hollan Jones) promising just as much opposition over her long track record of conservative opinions.

The White House should not be fooled into thinking that the Democrats have any political capital left. They put on a circus for the nation to see in Roberts' hearings before the Judiciary Committee and got outed for the inept, inarticulate boobery that most of them keep behind the scenes, and for good reason. While Pat Leahy may have recovered some respect for his tough but informed questioning, the rest of the Democrats got so badly outplayed by Roberts in both class and legal erudition that the nation could be excused from wondering how this collection of political hacks wound up on a Judiciary Commitee in the first place. None of them, save perhaps Leahy, showed any kind of depth as legal scholars, and at least two of them (Biden and Schumer) spent most of their time whining that they didn't have enough time because Roberts kept answering their questions. One, Ted Kennedy, sounded so incoherent and disconnected from the proceedings -- and appeared so ill -- that viewers hoped the committee had an EMT team standing by in case Ted needed to return to the sanitarium.

This doesn't add up to leverage or political capital; it adds up to a Siegfried Line circa 1945. All it takes is the will to punch through it, and it will completely collapse. Janice Rogers Brown will provide the legal scholarship, the poise, and the verbal deftness to swiftly dispatch the pretenders on the Judiciary Committee, and again the nation will see the injustice of the Democratic demagogues that kept her prior nomination bottled up for four years, just as they did with Roberts for almost two.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 27, 2005 6:59 AM

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