Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Meaningless Delay

From The Washington Post:

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee reached an agreement yesterday evening to wait until next Tuesday to vote on the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.

The agreement alters the schedule announced Friday, during the final moments of Alito's week-long confirmation hearings, by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who said he would conduct the panel's vote today. His announcement sparked a quarrel with the panel's ranking Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), who said he would seek a delay. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) vowed that a vote in the full Senate, which has final say over all judicial candidates chosen by the president, would take place by the end of the week.

In the end, Specter and Frist essentially acknowledged the prerogative Democrats have under Senate rules to postpone any committee decision for one week. GOP leaders grumbled that Democrats had reneged on an earlier agreement about when the Alito vote would take place -- an agreement that Democrats denied ever existed.


Democrats, anticipating that Alito ultimately will be confirmed, are trying to deny the White House that victory as long as possible, particularly in the days before the State of the Union address President Bush is to deliver Jan. 31. Although Senate rules do not enable them to defer the confirmation vote until after the speech, Democratic senators would like to reduce the victory period immediately before the speech, one of the broadest public stages the president commands each year.

Democrats are delaying in a partisan calculation, but also to make sure they get their marching orders:
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, most of whom have indicated they will vote against Alito's confirmation, were reluctant to cast their votes before a meeting tomorrow of the Senate's Democratic Caucus, at which senators plan to consider their strategy for the final phases of the confirmation process.
They'll also lose their vacation over it:

Frist announced that, unless the final vote takes place this week, he would cancel a week-long Senate vacation next week -- a step that he took yesterday, according to his chief of staff, Eric Ueland.

Ueland said last night that Frist planned to start debate over Alito in the full Senate on Jan. 25, the day after the committee's vote, adding, "We'll stay on the nomination until the judge is the justice."

Since the Supreme Court is in recess until February 21, the delay should have little effect. Meanwhile, even the Post argues Alito should be confirmed:

A Supreme Court nomination isn't a forum to refight a presidential election. The president's choice is due deference -- the same deference that Democratic senators would expect a Republican Senate to accord the well-qualified nominee of a Democratic president.

And Judge Alito is superbly qualified. His record on the bench is that of a thoughtful conservative, not a raging ideologue. He pays careful attention to the record and doesn't reach for the political outcomes he desires. His colleagues of all stripes speak highly of him. His integrity, notwithstanding efforts to smear him, remains unimpeached.

...No president should be denied the prerogative of putting a person as qualified as Judge Alito on the Supreme Court.

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