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May 20, 2005


Guessing is fun, but we're getting too close to really know. This is when the arm-twisting and deals are done. I just don't think the moderates of both parties can force a deal over Reid and Frist. I think Frist remains a stumbling block, because he has to have this vote now. The other big issue is the lack of comity and trust between R and D moderates. Shields and Brooks on PBS could do no better than we.

So we're back where we started... how will the R moderates Specter and Collins, and the R traditionalists like Warner, vote? Will there be a surprise anit-N.O. vote like Pat Roberts, DeWine or Murkowski?

In 4 more days, we'll get to dissect the bones of the answer.

Thanks for getting the transcript. I saw it live and was able to run it back and pondered it. I felt the whole speech was a challenge to Frist with the clear implication being that he did not have the votes. I thought your conclusions in the other thread were very well warranted.

I also had two other thoughts. First of all, Specter did not look well at all. Specter's illness makes it quite plausible to think that he's having some emotional & metaphysical challenges as well as the exhausting physical battle. This is, at least, his second confrontation with his own mortality. That's even weightier than thinking about legacy, which is where Warner, Lugar, Cochran, Bennett, and Domenici are.

The thing I thought after all of that is that Specter -- from his days with the 'magic bullet' -- has been exasperatingly obtuse.

I think Frist remains a stumbling block, because he has to have this vote now.

I totally agree with this but the key here is that Frist has to have the vote. Is it even worth asking whether the Repubs may come to believe that the fall-out isn't worth the gain? You have the business interests all opposed and, of course, the theocratic powers -- Dobson, Perkins, etc. -- are perhaps more interested in having their base whipped into a frenzy than having them placated. A loss feeds their persecution complex. Yes, it would be a defeat for Bush but he's always said it was the Senate's business and the press wouldn't dwell on that for long.

So, is it possible that the show and the vote always mattered as much as actually getting rid of the filibuster? I know they'd love to have that, too, but just maybe they're not really as intent on winning as we think.

All things considered, I agree with DemFromCT: we're getting too close to really know. ...In 4 more days, we'll get to dissect the bones of the answer.

Specter 'buked Frist and the whole history of escalation on both sides.

At the same time, he explicitly called for Reid to release the D's from any party leadership discipline on cloture for individual confirmations.

And he explicitly noted (as did Saddam) that strategic ambiguity can be a disincentive to overt conflict, while advocating whip counts that would seem to decrease ambiguity.

Interesting. The grown-ups are working overtime, the brats are wedging themselves into inflexible positions, and nothing is settled.

I watched Specter's entire speech, and found it fascinating. But I think your calculus is a bit off here.

"Only if Frist is forced to see (and to have it be seen) that he has no chance of winning this will he consider the compromises on the table."

Frist is no longer part of the equation. He does not have to agree to any compromise for it to take effect. The folks in the driver's seat are Specter and Warner. In fact, given Frist's personal ambitions, he can't be part of any compromise. It must be imposed on him by the moderates.

"Specter's message seems to be, by all rights, the whole Senate should decide this. This is your chance to get a sense of the Senate and let it decide. But if you don't do that, then we will take it over."

They've already taken over. If Reid, through his proxy of the 6 Democrats, agrees to a compromise that satisfies the Specter/Warner group, the compromise is struck. If Reid won't agree to a compromise that satisfies them, we go nuclear.

It's really that simple.

The crucial bit of information to process is that there was a compromise on the table on Wednesday that had the support of 6 Republicans, and that Reid vetoed that compromise. This means that there are already 6 Republicans willing to settle for something less than total victory.

What we are witnessing is a negotiating game of chicken between Specter/Warner and Reid. This is not a game of trying to round up stray votes. It is entirely a game of brinksmanship over the precise wording details of the compromise. And, of course, those wording details have little to do with the current judges being filibustered, and everything to do with the ability of the Democrats to filibuster Supreme Court nominations.

See Josh Marshall's post for a partial rundown in the issues at stake in the negotiations. And it's worth noting that Reid's willingness to veto the earlier compromise is some evidence supporting my intuition that Dems are holding the high cards in this game of chicken.

I'm with Josh Marshall on what's acceptable, but it remains to be seen as to where the R moderates and Reid are. I don't think filbustering Owens and Brown is acceptable to the Rs, regardless of the logic.

I do agree with Petey that Reid remains a player whereas Frist is the dummy (bridge) hand until vote time.

As noted elsewhere, Specter committed to Frist's filibuster position in exchange for keeping his Chair of the Judiciary committee.

"As noted elsewhere, Specter committed to Frist's filibuster position in exchange for keeping his Chair of the Judiciary committee."

Noted where? I haven't heard that. As I understood, the deal was not to bottle up nominees in committee.

Post-Gazette 11/19/04

Nine of the 10 GOP members gathered for a hastily called afternoon news conference at which Specter read a four-paragraph statement reiterating what he has been saying for the past two weeks: He won't attempt to block any of President Bush's judicial nominees who are opposed to abortion rights.

"I have assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes, so floor action could be promptly scheduled," Specter said, reading from his statement. He added: "I have no reason to believe that I'll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy of nomination."

Specter, a moderate who supports abortion rights, sparked an intense backlash from conservative groups two weeks ago when he cautioned Bush against nominating anti-abortion candidates to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying they likely would be blocked by Democrats.

Since then, Specter has been campaigning on television and radio and meeting one-on-one with fellow Senate Republicans in an effort to allay concerns that he would use his chairmanship to stymie confirmation of anti-abortion nominees.

In his statement yesterday, Specter also said he would support a Senate rule change, if necessary, to avoid a continuation of Democratic filibusters against Bush's judicial candidates.


Well now I understand why Specter is repeatedly described as not officially part of the Group of 12, despite the fact that in the room with them, and that he's obviously taking part in negotiations.

Oddly, I don't think that changes anything. As I state above, I don't think this is a game of trying to round up loose votes to get to 50 or 51. If Specter/Warner reaches agreement with Reid, the 6 votes will be rounded up with or without Arlen's participation.


And as an aside, good lord does Arlen look physically bad. Everytime I see him speak, I can't get the notion out of my mind that he's talking from the other side of the grave.

There's been scuttlebutt that he's gonna resign, and Rendell will appoint Casey - which would really be a drag if it plays out that way. It would have the effect of saving the otherwise doomed Santorum.

Speaking of moderates and moderation, I was amused by this observation from less-than-moderate Kim Du Toit:

From Mark Steyn:

”...the big flaw at the heart of the Westminster system is that in order to function as intended – by codes and conventions – it depends on a certain modesty and circumspection from the political class."

Anyone who thinks that “modesty and circumspection” are to be found ANYWHERE amongst our current crop of political animals in Congress, feel free to point it out to me.

Here’s my prediction for Election 2008: The Republicans are going to lose the Presidency, because their core voters are becoming so disgusted with the way government is operating at the moment, that come Election Day, a whole lot of conservatives are going to go bowling (or, in my case, to the range).

Consequences, consequences, consequences

First off, there is a difference in what the majority can or should be able to do to the minority based on the importance of the issue. In a nutshell, that is what the filibuster, or need for a supermajority, is all about! A couple of examples for explanation maybe!

A society does not need a supermajority to decide if the next planet to explore will be Mars or Venus. Who really cares that much? A supermajority is not needed to determine if the next jet aircraft for the Airforce should be able to fly at 1000 MPH or 1100 MPH! Who really cares that much?

However, if the majority says to a minority that they must practice a strict fundamentalist form of Christianity or be jailed, well now the size of the minority matters! If the minority is small, say 10% of the voters, well maybe they can be stonewalled by the majority or put in internment camps if they are uncooperative in their forced repression. If the minority on the other hand is very large, say 48-49%, well a simple minority vote on such a matter should well lead to totally destructive interactions, even civil war! That is why a supermajority is indicated in some areas of social interactions, maybe even a 70 or 80% supermajority!

Now the question becomes, if this tiny majority does not have the smarts to see the consequences of what they are about to sow, maybe the large minority to be affected should start to speak out about what they intent to do about this situation!

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