September 21, 2005

Senator Harry Reid To Vote "No" - Political Partisanship Ensues

According to the New York Times, Senator Harry Reid will vote against confirming John Roberts:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Tuesday that he would oppose the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice, surprising both the White House and fellow Democrats still conflicted about how to vote.

In becoming the first Democrat to declare formally how he intended to vote, Mr. Reid may have made it more difficult for fellow Democrats to support Judge Roberts. Many Senate observers expected Mr. Reid, who comes from a Republican-leaning state and is opposed to abortion, to support Judge Roberts.

And the Democratic leader himself said Tuesday that he had earlier given the White House a list of nominees who would be objectionable and that Judge Roberts was not on it.

In announcing his decision in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, Mr. Reid questioned Judge Roberts's commitment to civil rights and said he was "very swayed" by the civil rights and women's rights leaders who testified Thursday in opposition to the nomination - and with whom Mr. Reid met privately that same day. Liberal advocacy groups, who raise millions of dollars to support Democratic candidates and who have been putting intense pressure on Democrats to oppose the nomination, were elated. ...Last Thursday, as Mr. Reid was weighing his decision, representatives of about 40 advocacy groups met with him in the Capitol; the reason, they said, was to underscore the threat they believe Judge Roberts poses to Democrats' core causes, racial and gender equality. Hovering in the background was a political argument, that if Democrats vote in favor of Judge Roberts, they will be held liable by voters for the decisions he makes on the court. "He got the message loud and clear, didn't he?" Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said of Mr. Reid on Tuesday.....

The White House reacted coolly to Mr. Reid's announcement. A spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said it departed from Senate tradition in which members have "based their decisions on the qualifications of the nominee, not on whether or not the person doing the nominating was in their same party."

It is very disappointing that Senator Reid would decide to vote against the confirmation of a very obviously qualified nominee. Clearly, the decision can be seen as nothing more than pandering to special interest groups such as NOW and NARAL.

Judge Roberts will be confirmed - regardless of whether or not Senator Reid votes for confirmation. However, it is unfortunate that the Democrats have chosen to inject political partisanship into the confirmation vote. Don't get me wrong - there has always been political posturing and partisanship in the hearings. However, the actual voting has been near unanimous on past nominees:

John Paul Stevens, 1975: 98-0
Sandra Day O'Connor, 1981: 99-0
Antonin Scalia, 1986: 98-0
Anthony Kennedy, 1987: 97-0
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1993: 96-3
Stephen Breyer, 1994: 87-9

Even the most ardent liberal cannot, with a straight face, tell me that Judge Roberts is more conservative than Antonin Scalia (and yet, no Democrat opposed his nomination).

So what has changed? Evidently, the Democrats are misdirecting their insane hatred of George Bush towards Judge Roberts.

Senator Reid does base his opposition on the administration's refusal to release confidential memos and Judge Roberts refusal to answer questions about how he would rule on certain issues. However, the Democrats are being very hypocritical. Judge Roberts has handled the confirmation hearings no differently than Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg did:

With the brewing fight over the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, can we even find Memory Lane so as to stroll down it? Let's see, here's Ruth Bader Ginsburg's confirmation in 1993, one of the last two members to join the Court. It's fair to ask what kind of maelstrom she encountered after she was nominated by Bill Clinton to a Senate controlled by his party, the Democrats. Glad you asked:

-- Her hearing lasted a total of 4 days;

-- She wasn't required to discuss her legal views on a host of social issues;

-- Then Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden (D-DE) warned fellow Senators not to ask questions about "how she will decide any specific case that may come before her."

-- When asked specific questions during her hearing, she replied politely, "I prefer not to address a question like that" or "I would prefer to await a particular case."

She was confirmed by a vote of 96-3.

The Democrats should be very careful. They are setting a very dangerous precedent. As the statistics above demonstrate, the Republicans have been very respectful of Democratic nominees in the past (e.g., Ginsburg and Breyer - both Clinton nominees). Do they really want to turn Supreme Court nomination votes into party line votes? After all, I assume the Democrats would like to eventually win a presidential election and thereby have the right to nominate their own Supreme Court Justice at some point....
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