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May 20, 2005


Specter may be the only player (well, perhaps Collins as well) who are 2008-free to vote their consciences. Warner was my third vote to deny Frist the victory. I don't have enough respect for Hagel to expect him to vote nay (with the Dems, McCain, Snowe and Chafee).

While I'm sure that WAS true early this week, I don't know what WILL BE true.

Two others might be. DeWine has never commited to voting for the NO, and he's one of the Gang of Twelve. Murkowski is also with them. She beat off the challenge from the right last time around, and Alaska isn't much of a Christian Right enclave anyway. And as RonK pointed out the other day, the Nuclear Option could really screw small states like Alaska.

There may be enough votes to kill it even if Frist brings it to the floor. We have three, and I think it's possible we get at least another three from a collection of Repubs that includes Warner, DeWine, Murkowski, Collins and Sunnunu. Of those five, two (Murkowski and Sunnunu) are "legacies" and probably immune to intra-party challenges. Collins is unlikely to face much backlash in ME, and has the cover of Snowe to hid behind. Warner can't be touched. The only one who could be hurt bad is DeWine, but it may also help him with general election voters to vote against the Nuclear Option.

In a couple of days we're going to see what these people are made of.

Oh, forgot Specter, who's free like Warner, but may feel reluctant to oppose the President, who bailed him out last year in the primary. But that's six possible Repubs from who we need three votes.

One other thing on Specter: he may also be reluctant to split his vote with Santorum, to whom he also owes thanks for last year, and who Specter doesn't want to see lose in 06. That may be the biggest impediment to Specter voting no.

As I've said all along, a vote is all but inevitable. I think the idea of a compromise is dead because Compromise is dead. This GOP insurgency's very MO is: raw power, breaking rules, breaking promises and lying. Make a deal today, and what will it be worth in the next congress or when Rehnquist steps down? And I think DHinMI is correct to point out that having a vote and losing is better for Frist and the boyz than a compromise.

Dr Bill is weak (not in TN but in the Senate) and probably doesn't have the votes, but either way, it's fight now or fight later. Is now better than later? Who knows? But I don't think it's going to be up to the Dems to decide.

Specter otoh has his cancer treatment to give him a different look on life, and owes Bush little... he (and Santorum) did nothing to stop Toomey torturing Specter, despite the 'support' given. Specter also has a chance to redeem himself over that disgraceful Scottish law cop-out on the Clinton impeachment (i.e., he's 75 and we're talkin' legacy here).

See, the problem is that ultimately we have to count on Warner, Murkowski, Specter, and DeWine? Kagro thinks Frist gets the votes, and I can see why, even though logic and self-interest dictates otherwise. All of them (with Collins) potentially support the aye vote (Reid's position) but none of them want to be the 51st vote. And they're all too gutless to be on the 51-49 winning side.

I've been making a similar argument for a while. That the reason compromise is impossible is because there is nothing the moderates can offer Fristie that is more valuable than good cred with his fundies. So he will never agree.

I also think Specter will vote with us, almost definitely. In his Senate speech today, he called for Fristie to call a Whip vote in front of all the CSPAN voters (which would be me). Specter must know better than anyone where the votes are right now. And I gotta believe he'd only make the call for the public show of hands if he knew Fristie didn't have the votes. If he believed Frist HAD the votes, then by showing that, he would basically have shown Fristie that he should go nuclear right away. There is NO WAY that Fristie, after seeing he had the votes, could back off.

No, Specter wanted to show Fristie--and his fundies--that he doesn't have the vote. It's the only way the moderates can make a deal, if they give Fristie room for making a deal. It probably doesn't matter anyway. The fundies want an act, just like they did with Schiavo. And I'm sure they don't care if they sacrifice the good doctor from Tennessee in the process, if they get to show their power in the Senate.

Of course, Specter didn't get his vote. So now we just sit and wait until Monday.

But if I'm understanding the move correctly, then I am MUCH more optimistic we've got the votes than I was yesterday.

Didn't know Specter called his bluff that way. As folks know, I've long thought that Frist didn't have the votes or he would have voted. That doesn't mean, however, that I've thought that Reid had the votes. Based on what's been happening lately, I bet Sununu and DeWine and Murkowski and some others wish it would go away, but haven't committed to Frist. Maybe Specter's move was a signal that he knows that some of them won't vote with Frist, and he's tired of playing around trying to get a compromise that won't ever happen.

At a certain point, these guys just want to get this shit over with. They've waited for this vote longer than Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot.

I'm not sure I interpreted Specter's bluff correctly. Most other people on the liveblog thread were pretty pissed at what Specter was saying. But I've not found anyone else who saw the whip vote call who could explain it at all--or even seemed to notice. I'm trying to get the DemBloggers to put up Specter's speech, because at this point it is the rosetta stone of what's behind door number one, two, and three.

In any case, I'm certain that he referred to the nuclear option in the same apocalyptic terms the Dems are using. Which suggests we've got his vote, at least. Sure, he may be swayed, but I doubt it.

Most other people on the liveblog thread were pretty pissed at what Specter was saying. But I've not found anyone else who saw the whip vote call who could explain it at all--or even seemed to notice.

Doesn't surprise me; unfortunately too many people on the blogs seem unable to recognize guile, indirection, or feints, or to be able to read between the lines.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. They were so angry that Specter was saying anything bad about the Dems. But I think he may have been giving us the whole game.

Brian from DemBloggers is going to see if he can get the clip. I'd love to get some other people to look at it.

this is a 3-D chess game (with Bolton and Social Security on the axes). Bush has assuredly lost on SS, has mase a pig's breakfast on Bolton and is fighting for the N.O.

He could win on Bolton and win on NO but he will assuredly lose on SS. And he could lose all 3.

Here's another question for you. Do you think the names attached to the call for cloture today would be indicative of anything? It sounded like they had about 10 names, maybe several more. And none of the moderates were on there, of course.

emptywheel, I think you were right about Santorum. By being as outrageous as he was, he guarantees that he is the story, or at least part of it.

There won't be any compromise at leadership level (unless Frist's goose is cooked AND it becomes bleedingly obvious to him). There can still be dealmaking between Dem leadership and GOP defectors.

At this point the Fundies are just using Frist, and the M'f'rs of Great Wealth are just using the Fundies. Some R's who thought they were sure they knew how they were going to vote will surprise themselves (by reconsidering, if not defecting). D's have probably made the wrong appeals, Frist in the dying spasm of his political career will probably make the move that has the worst possible consequences, and the game is more like multidimensional bowling than 3-dimensional chess.

What's for dessert?

Wow -- so much to take in here.

Emptywheel, I saw Specter on the floor and thought his whole statement seemed designed as a 'cautionary tale' directed at Frist. I heard his challenge and wondered about it. Your explanation makes more sense than anything I'd thought of.

RonK, I agree that some of the supposedly nailed-down votes may not be. A possible surprise -- Robert Bennett. Theocrats aren't as big in the inner mountain West (except UT, of course, the bastion). But he's also legacy, grew up in DC when his dad was a senator & has a great sense of the institution.

whoever, yes, I think there's definitely something to be read into who signed the cloture motion. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what.

Another thing, with all the corporate/business interests (think esp. Stephen Moore) opposed to the NO, are we absolutely sure that Frist wants to win it? The theocrats have been bought by show before and since Dobson, et al, also exploit the faithful masses, it seems at least worth pondering how sincere some of these efforts actually are. Of course, they'd love to strip Dems of the bothersome filibuster but perhaps some of them have come to see that it might not be worth it.

"There won't be any compromise at leadership level (unless Frist's goose is cooked AND it becomes bleedingly obvious to him). There can still be dealmaking between Dem leadership and GOP defectors."


The game is brinksmanship negotiations between Specter/Warner and Reid.

"It hit me today that there won't be any compromise on the Nuclear Option, because positioning for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination all but dictates that Bill Frist bring the issue to the floor for a vote."

A compromise is still quite possible, but Frist must out of the official loop due to his ambitions.

Whether there is any co-operation between Frist and Specter/Warner is something that will not be revealed for obvious reasons.

What I tried to imply but may not have explicitly stated was that there wouldn't be a compromise that would prevent the issue from coming up for a vote (unless, as I stated and RonK reiterated, Frist realizes that his Pres bid is toast, a realization I don't think he'll have). You're correct that there could still be a compromise, but only between Reid and the Repub defectors, who will, as RonK points out in his newest post, possess tremendous power to determine the process by which the issue will be settled.

Here are some "nuclear option" questions that I have:

Has a presiding officer of the Senate ever exercised such power before;

Does the exercise of this power violate the separation of powers set out in the Constitution since the interpretation of the Constitution seems to be a judicial function;

Is there anyway to challenge the exericise of this power in federal courts by filing an injunction against the judge who is confirmed by such a process; and

Who would have standing to file such a action in federal court?

The premise behind the nuclear option seems to be that since Art.I, Sec. 5 of the U.S. Constitution allows each House of Congress the power to determine its own rules, the presiding officer of that house can find a rule to be unconstitutional.

The problem with that analysis is that in the Senate the presiding officer is a member of the executive branch, not the legislative branch, so, in essence you have an executive branch officer interpreting rules passed by a leglislative body under Art. II, Sec. 5.

Historically Federal Courts have refused to get involved in the internal affairs of either the House or the Senate, but in this situation there is a difference since the executive branch is taking upon itself to both interpert the Constitution and also to determine how the Rules of the Senate are applied. It would be interesting to know what the Federal judiciary thinks of such actions.

Anyway, I pose these questions because I don't know the answer and I wanted some input from other readers of this site.

One question I have is how seniority works into all of this. Warner, Lugar, and Specter are all veterans in what may be their last term. Specter, in particular, has a lot of reasons not to stick around too much longer: he was challenged somewhat seriously in both the primary and the general this year, and he's suffering from cancer. I wonder whether, with re-election hanging over their heads less than a lot of the Senate, these Senators might be more resistant to White House pressure.

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