Clift on a Senate Filibuster

Monday, November 14, 2005

Clift on a Senate Filibuster

Writing in Newsweek, Eleanor Clift offers Senate Democrats this advice on the Samuel Alito nomination:
Democrats should mount a tough fight and expose Alito and his conservative cheerleaders so the voters know what they’re getting.

Highlight the ruling where Alito said Congress has no power to regulate machine guns under the commerce clause of the Constitution. Play the abortion card -- but stop short of a filibuster.

With President George W. Bush’s approval rating at 35 percent in the latest CBS poll, Democrats have finally sprung to life. That’s a good thing, but a bruising battle over cultural issues is better for Bush than for the Democrats.

Rather than risk the filibuster in an unwinnable fight over Alito, Democrats should save it for when and if that awful day arrives when the most liberal member of the court, John Paul Stevens, 85, steps down while Bush is still president.
I basically agree with Clift that a filibuster is highly unlikely to succeed, and such an attempt may simply earn Bush some public sympathy.

Having said that, I'm bothered by Clift's argument that Dems should "save" their filibuster for when (or if) a Republican White House seeks to replace Stevens with a conservative justice. Diane Feinstein has made a similar argument -- that Sandra Day O'Connor's seat should be filled by someone whose judicial philosophy closely reflects conservative-centrist views.

The view that a specific seat on the court is somehow reserved for a conservative, a centrist or a liberal is both intellectually and politically bankrupt.

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