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November 6, 2005
Filibuster Momentum Dying Out

The political momentum of a Democratic filibuster appears to have dissipated over the weekend after a momentary corrective earlier this week. Last weekend, two key GOP members of the Gang of 14 asserted that they would not only support the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court but that they would also vote for the Byrd option eliminating filibusters on judicial nominations if the Democrats attempted to block a full Senate vote. By mid-week, the Gang had officially returned to wait-and-see mode instead, but comments today by two of the most combative members of the Democratic caucus make it clear that a filibuster has become a dead issue:

"My instinct is we should commit" to an up-or-down vote by the full Senate, said [Senator Joe] Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee. "I think the probability is that will happen.

"I think that judgment won't be made ... until the bulk of us have had a chance to actually see him and speak to him," Biden told ABC's "This Week."

The bigger surprise came from Ted Kennedy on Meet The Press this morning. Kennedy went further than Biden, saying that he might even consider voting to confirm Alito. His only reservation at this point, he told MTP, was that the people who wanted the nomination of Harriet Miers withdrawn now seem so enthusiastic about Alito. If that's the basis of Kennedy's analysis, it demonstrates the shallowness of his intellect. He can't trust himself to determine the character and quality of the nominee in front of him -- a candidate for whom he has voted to confirm to the federal bench on two separate occasions -- so he instead focuses on those who support Alito in order to make a third judgment on the same candidate.

People should find it easy to come to a judgment on Alito's qualifications. Unlike Harriet Miers, he has a long track record of working on constitutional law as well as a solid career as a litigator, first as a prosecutor and later as an appellate attorney. He has spent the last 15 years as a federal jurist and has written plenty of opinions on many cases. This record shows him to have a splendid judicial temperament, excellent commitment to the law, a high level of legal erudition and scholarship, as well as having a more originalist/conservative philosophy of jurisprudence on the bench.

Why that record can't be enough for Ted to consider can only be definitively answered by Ted and his staff, but those of us who watched the Roberts hearings have a pretty good idea. Ted has no capacity for focused thought, as his mumblings and attention deficits during the hearings amply demonstrated. Expect the senior Senator from Massachussetts to have many more of those senior moments during the Alito hearings as well.

The lack of passion coming from the Democratic caucus while they can still control the media perspective on Alito suggests that they understand the risks involved in attacking an eminently qualified jurist. They attempted a number of smears against Roberts through their proxies at NARAL and PFAW, only to have egg on their face when Roberts very publicly took them to school during the hearings. None of the Democrats want to wind up looking like Fred Smoot talking trash to Steve Smith the week before getting his butt kicked all over the field on national television. The Democrats already had that happen once, and apparently they've learned a lesson from it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 6, 2005 1:48 PM

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» Bidens says Alito filibuter improbable from The Politburo Diktat
Joe Biden on Meet the Press: A key Democrat said on Sunday that he expects the full Republican-led Senate to vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito without the threat of a Democratic filibuster. But Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said a dec... [Read More]

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» Bidden: Alito unlikely to face a filibuster from Stop The ACLU
By Thomas Ferraro WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key Democrat said on Sunday that he expects the full Republican-led Senate to vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito without the threat of a Democratic filibuster. But Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware ... [Read More]

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