Skip to comments.Ted Kennedy's Last Stand: He'll Lead Senate Battle Over Court Pick
Posted on 07/04/2005 8:02:39 PM PDT by blueberry12
Sen. Edward Kennedy will be the Democrat's point man in their all out attack on President Bush's nominee to the high court.
Though Kennedy no longer holds the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a role he played from 1979 to 1981, he is the most senior ranking Democrat on the august committee. He is also the most virulent among his Democratic colleagues in his opposition to the Bush administration.
The stage has once again been set for him to become the salient force in the looming battle over who will replace a retiring Justice - Sandra Day O'Connor.
Kennedy, who has been in the Senate since 1962 is an old hand at the game and will no doubt outshine the titular head of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., at every turn.
People still talk about getting "Borked" when referring to getting a raw deal. But "Borked" should be synonymous with being targeted by Ted Kennedy.
When Robert H. Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings were singularly marked by Kennedy attacking Bork for his conservative judgments on issues like abortion and civil rights:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids..."
Supreme Court nominee Bork was not confirmed.
Clarence Thomas got the treatment in 1991 as Bush, Sr.'s nominee to the high court.
With the confirmation hearings already revving hot and heavy over Thomas's conservative stance on issues like affirmative action, the brush fire morphed to a conflagration after a law professor named Anita Hill came forward during the hearings, claiming Thomas had sexually harassed her.
Kennedy was widely attacked as a hypocrite - his own personal life less than sterling - for taking a leading role as a defender of Anita Thomas against accused sexual harasser Clarence Thomas.
Perhaps the apparent hypocrisy backfired. Thomas was confirmed.
Already, Kennedy is sharpening up his rhetoric.
Kennedy's statement Friday: "If the President abuses his power and nominates someone who threatens to roll back the rights and freedoms of the American people, then the American people will insist that we oppose that nominee, and we intend to do so."
On "This Week," Kennedy barked, "If he wants to pick a judge, we want to be able to support him. But if he wants to have a fight about it, then that's going to be the case."
Meanwhile, chairman Specter was benignly warning conservative groups not to prejudge Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose name continues to be on the lips of those speculating about President Bush's choice of a Supreme Court nominee:
"I don't think the social conservatives ought to prejudge Attorney General Gonzales. Attorney General Gonzales may not even be in the picture," intoned Specter.
Kennedy, who rang in the Fourth of July with a starburst article called "Let the Senate Advise!" in the Washington Post, has his virtual office-style official Web site festooned with judiciary stuff. By contrast, there's not a byte on the Specter site remotely akin to the brewing firestorm.
Some weeks ago, the so-called "Gang of 14" Republican and Democratic senators struck a filibuster compromise deal to avoid the ominous "nuclear option" of freezing the filibuster with a rule change. The deal allowed votes for a handful of pro-life appeals court nominees that had been blocked by filibusters - in exchange for promises not to support changing Senate rules to prevent filibusters on judges.
As part and parcel of the compromise, members agreed that a filibuster would only be used on future judges, including Supreme Court nominees, in "extraordinary circumstances."
What the particular definition of "extraordinary" is remains subject to interpretation.
Enter Sen. Kennedy.
Pundits suggest that Kennedy's fire on the subject - even now in the days and weeks before a real live Bush nominee is even disclosed - is setting up an environment that can more readily be elevated to "extraordinary."
Indeed, Kennedy is the pro forma head of a segment of the Senate that promises they will filibuster President Bush's pick to replace pro-abortion Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor - if the nominee is too conservative.
If just being too conservative doesn't ring of exigency, it can, with a little spin. "Can we imagine what this country would be like today if Judge Bork had gone onto the Supreme Court?" Kennedy asks rhetorically.
When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., recently addressed the volatile subject of judges and omitted a demand for real down-and-dirty Senate-White House consultations, Kennedy took the lead in the chastisement department.
"Under the Constitution and the Senate Rules, every Senator's hands are on the oars of this vessel. If a substantial number of us are rowing in the opposite direction from the Majority Leader, we will not make much progress. But if there is a consensus as to where we want to go, we can get there directly and quickly.
"The 14 Senators who reached the landmark bipartisan compromise in the nuclear option debate made a pledge to one another and a plea to the President that the advice function must not be given short shrift, and that serious consultation with the Senate in the nomination process is the key to a successful confirmation process."
But all has not been fire and brimstone from Sen. Kennedy, who at one point seemed to be arguing simply for a little business as usual. "A few of us who have been here in the Senate for all of the confirmations of the current nine justices know that most of them were consensus choices.
"Seven of them - including all six whom the right-wing wants to impeach - were confirmed with such strong bipartisan support that no more than nine Senators voted against them, and, of those, four received unanimous Senate support."
Whatever hopes Sen. Kennedy entertains about consultation and consensus choices was flavored by remark made in yet another of the flurry of press releases flowing from the Kennedy camp. In this case he charges the opposition with girding their loins - knowing full well that the nominee is going to be a bombshell.
"White House officials made time to meet, with prominent outside allies on the right, who are so sure that the President will nominate a non-consensus candidate, that they have put an $18 million war-chest in place to defend that nominee. Their advice to the President was clear - they would consent to and support any right-wing judge he selects for the High Court. No wonder he likes to get their advice and consent!"
Kennedy has put his own colleagues on notice of just how seriously he takes the process. When a senator argued in print that "Senate practice and even the Constitution contemplate deference to the president and a presumption in favor of confirmation," the Massachusetts lawmaker shot out yet another press release.
"That's not what the Constitution says. Since the days of George Washington - whose nomination of a Justice was denied consent by the Senate of that day, there has been no 'presumption in favor of confirmation' of lifetime judicial appointees. In general, many of us do give some deference to a President's nominees to the Executive Branch, since they are not lifetime appointments. But even there, if the President overreaches, we act to fulfill our constitutional responsibility."
Giving a hint at the grisly nature of the potential conflict, Kennedy offered this colorful metaphor. "Like sausage and legislation, the confirmation or rejection of a Supreme Court nomination is not always something pleasant to watch or be part of. The course is set by the President. If the President submits an 'in your face' nomination to flaunt his power, it takes time and effort and sweat and tears before the truth about the candidate is fully discovered and explained to the public and voted on."
The 72-year-old senator has long ago abandoned any dreams of Camelot and has little to loose as he stands front and center. Other political stars, who still harbor presidential ambitions, such as Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have been more or less content to wait it out - letting the other side at least fire the first shot with that feared 'in your face' nominee.
Far from being content with a waiting game, Kennedy looks forward to yet the next phase of battle - when Chief Justice William Rehnquist retires. Kennedy is on record saying that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas "would be completely troublesome" as nominees to replace the ailing Rehnquist.
Best bet is to encourage him to rage.
Ted Kennedy Leads party over another bridge.
Senator Fatimir Harkennedy
Ok, then name Janice Rogers Brown. That should do it. :o) :o) :o)
That image is priceless! The movie was so bad, so long ago, though, how many will remember the reason Harkonnen required his anti-grav apparatus?
Bring it on, FAT BOY.
The Dem's have nothing else to fight/stand for. How pathetic.
How ironic that the brother of the first Catholic president
opposes letting any practicing Catholic (i.e., opposed to abortion) sit on any Federal bench. . .
That he sits in judgement of judges of law is one of the biggest cases of bizarro irony that I can think of. Senator Kennedy would still be checking in with his Parole Officer in a perfectly just world.
And no big deal to him that his young female passenger didn't.
I have called my two girl senators on several occasions, and their office personel will not explain to me what partial birth abortion is..... Sen Feinsteins office guided me to the health department, and I am still waiting on Barbie Boxers office to call me back....
If only it was that easy...
Yep. Unfortunately, you are correct.
It's amazing that there is already confirmation of opposition, without a nominee.
Bring-it-on fat boy!!
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