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November 3, 2005
A Smarter Schedule, A Dumber AP

Despite calling the January 9th schedule for Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings with the Judiciary Committee a "bipartisan repudiation" of Bush's request for expedited hearings in December in the AP lead on the story, nothing in the rest of the article even remotely suggests that the schedule repudiates anything. In fact, the article by David Espo suggests that the Republicans may have thought through a better strategy than the White House, and that the White House may well have agreed with them.

Here's what Espo wrote:

The Republican-controlled Senate will begin hearings Jan. 9 on Judge Samuel Alito's appointment to the Supreme Court, leaders of the Judiciary Committee announced Thursday, a bipartisan repudiation of President Bush's call for a final confirmation vote before year's end.

"It simply wasn't possible to accommodate the schedule that the White House wanted," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman. He outlined a timetable that envisions five days of hearings, followed by a vote in committee on Jan. 17 and the full Senate on Jan. 20. ...

While Bush had called for a confirmation by the end of the year, administration spokesman Steve Schmidt raised no objection to the schedule. He said the White House had "great confidence in Chairman Specter to manage the extremely complicated process of moving a nominee to the Supreme Court through the U.S. Senate."

Nor was there any evidence the scheduling decision signaled any deeper dissatisfaction among Republicans to the nomination. "I think Judge Alito has made a very good first impression," Specter said.

Yes, that's quite the stunning bipartisan repudiation! No one seems unhappy with the arrangements, and Espo reports that the Republicans remain impressed with Alito during their meetings. Other than that, well, it's utter turmoil on Capitol Hill. Someone had better get Harriet Miers and the search committee back on the case.

The truth is rather obvious. While Bush would like Alito confirmed as quickly as possible, the reality of the calendar is that the Senate will soon be out of session and two major American family holidays will cut out a significant amount of the calendar. Bush could insist that the Judiciary Committee remain in town and use a populist argument about how ordinary Americans work hard through the Thanksgiving-Christmas season, but both Democrats and Republicans alike need to do some home-town politicking, especially those running for re-election in 2006. Committee members have a legitimate expectation of getting enough time to review Alito's voluminous record of opinions over the last 15 years, and three weeks doesn't quite seem realistic, considering that most have other committee assignments as well. It won't do anything positive for Alito to antagonize everyone just to push the full-Senate vote date forward an extra four weeks.

That gives everyone something to claim as a victory. It allows Democrats to tell their base that Sandra Day O'Connor might get to vote on one or two more cases before Alito relieves her and takes the swing vote away. More importantly, however, it allows the Republicans to compress the time between the committee hearings and the final floor vote, removing any chance of a prolonged public-relations campaign based on out-of-context sound bites from Alito's testimony, especially over Christmas when people will watch college football bowl games and NFL playoffs. And if the schedule holds up, Alito will win confirmation in plenty of time for Bush's State of the Union speech next year, giving him some political momentum at the start of the new Congressional session.

This new schedule makes plenty of practical and political sense for everyone. Rather than a "repudiation", it fits into the schedule like a custom-fit glove for everyone concerned. The AP wants to make mischief instead of simply reporting the facts.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 3, 2005 8:51 PM

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» Alito Delay Not So Bad from bRight & Early
I posted last evening that I it was ridiculous to delay the start of the hearings for Judge Alito until January 9th. Well, I've had twelve hours to read more, think more, and for half of that time sleep on it. My considered opinion this morning is tha... [Read More]

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