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December 11, 2005
Bill Frist, Post-Spine Transplant

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist warned Democrats today that any attempt to filibuster the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court would result in the Byrd Option, which would strip the minority of the filibuster tool permanently for confirmations on appellate-court nominations. His statement gives the strongest indication yet that the GOP has counted heads and determined that enough Senators will back the rules change to make it a reality:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday he is prepared to strip Democrats of their to ability to filibuster if they try to stall Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

"The answer is yes," Frist said when asked if he would act to change Senate procedures to restrict a Democratic filibuster. "Supreme Court justice nominees deserve an up-or-down vote, and it would be absolutely wrong to deny him that."

In recent weeks, Senate Democrats have questioned whether Alito, a federal appeals court judge, has the proper judicial temperament and ideology to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Several Democrats have said that Alito's views on issues such as voting rights and abortion could provoke a filibuster unless he allays their concerns about his commitment to civil rights. Alito's confirmation hearings begin Jan. 9 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Alito has had his share of abuse come at him from the media over the past two months, most of it written out of whole cloth by axe-grinding "journalists" who fail to do even a minimum of research before publishing their opinion as fact. The latest and perhaps most egregious example came from Knight-Ridder's Stephen Henderson, who claimed that he could not find a ruling in a discrimination case in which Alito ruled for an African-American woman. Hugh Hewitt spent thirty minutes checking a law-system database and came up with three examples proving Henderson wrong.

The sound and fury coming from Democrats on Alito has been so hypocritical that the removal of the filibuster will seem like an anticlimax, a way to keep them from gumming up the works and one less opportunity to embarrass themselves. Democrats confirmed Alito to a seat on the federal appellate court fifteen years ago without demanding to review every scrap of paper from the Reagan Administration; back then, they seemed less interested in partisan bickering than fulfilling the traditional role of the Senate in confirming qualified nominees. Now that Alito has fifteen years of judicial experience on the bench, what do the Democrats want to review -- his hundreds of written opinions or thousands of decisions on the bench? No -- now they want all the Reagan-era privileged communications as a way to evaluate him as a judge.

It's a moronic approach on its face. The Democrats should be embarrassed to employ it, but if they do, then the GOP will be happy to restrict the debate that it creates and take away the one point of leverage that the Democrats still have in case John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the court during Bush's term. Does anyone really think the Democrats are foolish enough to risk that? I certainly didn't -- but that analysis relies on Democrats acting rationally, an assumption that may give them too much credit these days, considering their current leadership.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 11, 2005 10:44 AM

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