The Corner

Nuclear Option Update

From an interview with Tony Snow:

TONY SNOW, HOST: There’s much twitch and trembling and rage among

Democrats on Capitol Hill, today. President Bush has nominated for the

United States Supreme Court Samuel Alito, the judge on the 3rd U.S.

Circuit Court of Appeals.

Senator Patrick Leahy opening his remarks by saying, “This is a

needlessly provocative nomination. Instead of uniting the country

through his choice, the president has chosen to reward one faction of

his party at the risk of dividing the country.” Joining me now to talk

about that and much more, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Senator Frist, first, what do you make of the argument by Senators

Leahy and Schumer and Reid and others that this is a divisive nomination?

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Tony, this fellow,

Judge Alito — and I’ve been with him all morning. I’ve been with his

family, and he just left here a few minutes ago. He’s got a proven

record. He’s a proven nominee that absolutely meets the highest

standards of excellence in the United States of America.

I think the political posturing from the other side is absurd. I

think it is disrespectful of the nominee, who wants America — and my

colleagues, more importantly the latter. But once America sees who he

his, they’re going to stand back and say, “He is smart, he’s

intelligent, a man of integrity. A powerhouse, a powerhouse in the

legal profession.” So I look up on all these comments from my

colleagues as premature and political posturing. And, you know, if they

continue it along the way, I think they’re going to pay a price?

SNOW: How so?

FRIST: Well, first of all — and I said this to the judge, and I

said it to my colleagues. We have got to work together as a Senate to

give this qualified nominee a dignified hearing and a fair up-or-down

vote. If they want to throw the word “filibuster” around before, they

have had hearings before, they have had the opportunity to go back and

look at his records.

And if they are going to prejudge the outcome, it’s going to be a

fight. And we are already for it. Listen, I hope there’s no

filibuster. I stood on principle all along on the other hand, in spite

of the Gang of 14, in spite of deals being cut, on that principle that

these nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. And I haven’t cut deals in

the past.

Obstructing judicial nominees should be a thing of the past. If the

Democrats want to obstruct a nominee and not give us our constitutional

right of advice and consent, an up-or-down vote, we’ll take it to the

mat. If a filibuster comes back, I’m not going to hesitate to employ

the constitutional option to get an up-or-down vote.

SNOW: In other words, you will say to Democrats, “OK, we’ve been

playing Mr. Nice Guy, but we’re going to go ahead and vote on something

that says, for the purposes of voting in the United States Senate, the

Constitution requires only a majority vote. And therefore, filibusters

will henceforth not be in order when it comes to judicial nominees for

the federal bench by the president.

FRIST: That is correct, because the tyranny of the minority should

not offend and take advantage of a system that clearly, clearly lays out

in the Constitution advice and consent, meaning an up-or-down, fair,

dignified up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate.

SNOW: Do you believe you have the votes to pass the constitutional

option?

FRIST: Yes, yes. You know, and why do I say that so quickly? It’s

because this is a proven nominee. He meets the highest standards of

excellence in this country. And I have enough respect in this body, the

United States Senate, the upper legislative body of the greatest country

in the world, to act accordingly. And that is vote them up, vote them

down. You can decide how you want to, but give this proven nominee with

those highest standards of excellence a vote.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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