Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 1, 2009

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE.... A talking point emerges.

...Republicans are eagerly pointing out that Barack Obama, while in the Senate, voted to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito to the court.

Well, that's at least accurate. Obama, as a senator, declined to filibuster the Roberts nomination, but opposed cloture on the Alito nomination. On this point, Republicans are not lying or playing fast and loose with reality.

That said, this stroll down memory lane may not be as fruitful for the GOP as they'd like. For one thing, Obama, right around the time of the Alito hearings and floor vote, made a variety of comments that Republicans may find interesting. For example, he told ABC News in January 2006, "[T]here is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers and mechanisms to block the president [on judicial nominees] instead of proactively going out to the American people and talking about the values that we care about. And, you know, there's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values and that's to win elections."

For another, the more Republicans focus on Obama's efforts during the Bush years, the more it's a reminder of their own efforts during the same period.

In 2005, many Republican Senators went so far as to claim the filibuster of judicial nominees was unconstitutional. Now four year later, with President Obama's first Supreme Court appointment looming, will they remain consistent in their position or commit one of the most blatant acts of hypocrisy in the 220-year history of the United States Senate?

I seriously doubt it. Media Matters assembled quite a list of quotes from prominent Republican senators -- all of whom are still in the Senate and will be voting on Obama's choice -- arguing that filibustering a judicial nominee isn't just wrong, it's literally unconstitutional, at odds with the accepted norms of American government, and a tactic that tears at the heart of the legislative process.

I don't doubt that Republicans will shamelessly pretend none of this ever happened, and will pretend they never said the things they really did say, but I'm looking forward to the rhetorical acrobatics.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ken.) said in May 2005, "The United States Senate faces an unprecedented crisis brought on by the minority party. Judges who have been nominated by the President of the United States to the federal bench have been held up by a filibuster and cannot get a fair up-or-down vote.... We must not let the minority party circumvent the Constitution, and take away the right of the President to have his judicial nominees voted on by a simple up-or-down vote." There are nearly identical quotes from 28 other sitting Republican senators.

How does one get out of that now? I'm sure they'll think of something, but will they be able to say it with a straight face?

Steve Benen 4:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Comments

You can be sure the media will remind us of the Republican's quotes. Right? Right?

Posted by: Obama / Steelers / etc on May 1, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't doubt that Republicans will shamelessly pretend none of this ever happened, and will pretend they never said the things they really did say, but I'm looking forward to the rhetorical acrobatics."

Actually, as usual, they'll project. They'll call Dems hypocrites for opposing their filibuster although, even with regard to judicial appointments, Dems only used the filibuster in extraordinary circumstances. Republicans, on the other hand, use it by default.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Related:

K-Lo, back when BushCo was running the world.

"SCOTUS is something different—and I think at least some Republican senators get that. I don't think the White House has to compromise on anything regarding this open seat and I don't think anything is really gained by waiting."

K-Lo, this morning.

"Someone should be emerging as a legitimate leader on the Right who can say with some clout to the White House, "he we can do, she we can't." Draw some lines in the sand."

Posted by: Monty on May 1, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

How does one get out of that now? I'm sure they'll think of something...

They'll probably just do what they always do in these situations, just act like they never said those things and rely on the media not to mention it either. It hasn't failed them yet.

Posted by: Buckethead on May 1, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

How does one get out of that now?

Easy. Some quotes and actions are strolled down memory lane while others are destined for disposal down the memory hole. I won't be holding my breath for the media to notice.

Posted by: ckelly on May 1, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm sure they'll think of something, but will they be able to say it with a straight face?"

Sadly, yes.

Posted by: Nick on May 1, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

K Lo says..."Draw some lines in the sand."

And when Obama crosses those lines (and I hope he does) then what?

Posted by: ckelly on May 1, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oops. I just noticed that JakeD's 4:08 post made my point.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

...and again at 4:19.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

And, how long before some Dem proposed Trent Lott's "nuclear" option?

Are you kidding? Dems don't even mildly object when their own members vote to filibuster Dem bills. They should, but they don't.

Posted by: Danp on May 1, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

They will say: "The Democrats changed the rules and while we regret it, those are the rules now, and the new rules are the ones we will play by." It won't be true, but when did that ever bother them?

Posted by: bcamarda on May 1, 2009 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Look at the data JakeD. The numbers speak for themselves.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I predict, right here an now, that some Democratic Senator... -JakeD

You're on. But will it be before or after the gang of 14 claims that was a different era and that the standards agreed to then no longer apply?

Posted by: Danp on May 1, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Some quotes and actions are strolled down memory lane while others are destined for disposal down the memory hole. I won't be holding my breath for the media to notice.

The media will notice. The media will bring it to the Republican's attention while doing interviews.

It's just that they'll ask about the hypocrisy once, and then meekly sit there while the Republican interviewee spins some yarn of bullshit about how it's different now or how the democrats changed the rules. No follow ups. no pressing for clarification. Just a weak assed attempt at appearing "journalistic" while being "non-biased".

Posted by: tempered optimism on May 1, 2009 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Up or down vote!" Up or down vote!" I thought if I heard that another time I would puke (not that the republicans gave poor Harriet a chance for and up or down vote).
But I can change, too. Up or down vote! I'm sure I can count on republican support for that

Posted by: jeff on May 1, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The nuclear option is very questionable in terms of legality. It basically requires the VP to declare that a confirmation vote is just everyda y business like a quorum call. I would love it if they used it to seat Franken, since there should be no controversy in seating a duly elected Senator.

Republicans got away with their bluff, because of their allegiance with the media. Dems would be skewered. And this isn't the venue for betting money.

Posted by: Danp on May 1, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"CJ - what "numbers" are you referring to regarding Alito?"

JakeD--I'm going to assume that you're not being dense deliberately and point out that I'm not referring to any numbers "regarding Alito". I'm referring to the numbers regarding filibusters overall, and filibusters of judicial nominees. Compare the numbers when the Republicans controlled the Senate to the numbers when the Dems took over.

While you're at it, since Obama hasn't been in office for very long, you might also learn something by looking at the data regarding how-many Clinton judicial nominees either didn't get a hearing in or a vote out of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee (in other words, no up or down vote on the Senate floor) and comparing that data to similar circumstances when the roles were reversed.

Your equivalence argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Danp - I never said we would exchange money. How about I will donate $20 to the ACLU if I'm wrong and you will donate $20 to the Federalist Society if I'm right?

Posted by: JakeD on May 1, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

My take - these illustrious Republican senators will conveniently remember to forget their own recorded opinions. When confronted with them, they will merely say that was then and this is now - showing us all that no matter the rhetoric, these Republicans have embraced what they claim to loathe - moral relativity! Undaunted, these same senators will fail to realize the lesson we get from their intellectual hypocrisy - that their tenure in office needs to be cut short during their next election cycles! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 1, 2009 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure they'll think of something, but will they be able to say it with a straight face?

Of course they will, they are professional liars.

Posted by: qwerty on May 1, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

"...you said that 'Dems only used the filibuster in extraordinary circumstances' so if they didn't even once (i.e. Kerry against the extremely-qualified Alito), your claim is out the window, even if the data and numbers support your contention every other time. I wasn't making an 'equivalence argument'."

Deliberately dense.

Posted by: CJ on May 1, 2009 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

CJ is obviously frustrated, so I'll try to help him (or her) out.

When nearly all of Bush's judicial nominees are not filibustered by the Democrats, then of course, not to filibuster is ordinary and to filibuster is extraordinary--irregardless of who is being filibustered. (I hope that clears it up for JakeD. Otherwise, I'm out too).

CJ also had a good point regarding the Judiciary Committee under Orin Hatch's leadership. The filibuster is only an an available tool when your party is in the minority. Hatch and associates, as a rule (not the exception--the rule), prevented the large majority of Clinton's nominees from getting up or down votes on the Senate floor by never bringing their nominations up for a vote in the Judiciary committee in the first place. This was before the very same people accused Democrats of "hating the Constitution" when they tried to prevent an up or down vote, via filibuster, in exceptional circumstances. (Wondering if JakeD knows what an exception is.)

Posted by: Camus on May 1, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Um... Aren't 60 votes needed for cloture (ie to counter the filibuster)? If Obama nominates someone well qualified, from legal POV (and I can't imagine him choosing an inferiour intellect), then, hopefully, all Dems - even the newly minted one -- will vote to confirm. In which case, we need only one more vote. If Obama's first nomination is also a woman -- and, so far, all the "speculative lists" seem to point that way -- I have a strong suspicion that the Ladies Sane in the State of Maine would be disinclined to raise much fuss, just to please the Loopy-Goopy ideologues. Ms Snowe, especially, hasn't been best pleased with them, recently.

And the whole idea of filibuster becomes moot.

Posted by: exlibra on May 1, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Quote:will they be able to say it with a straight face?"

Like Jake D, the eternal troll, they will always lie with a "straight face." That is what liars do!

Posted by: Tom on May 1, 2009 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

As John Dean pointed out in "Conservatives without Conscience", when "they" do it, it is because they are evil, unprincipled creatures. When "we" do it, it is because our cause is right.

Posted by: Marc on May 3, 2009 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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