Robert Novak claims that Senate Republicans appear to have the votes to foreclose Democratic filibusters of President Bush’s judicial nominees. According to Novak, the leadership has the votes of all but three Republicans — McCain, Snowe, and Chafee. That would give the Republicans 52 votes, two more than they need. Chafee, for his part, apparently will support John Bolton in the Foreign Relations committee, where his vote is essential. If Novak is correct, Chafee’s vote is not needed on the judges and, since he is up for re-election in a liberal state, voting to break the filibusters would be unwise in these circumstances.
I’ve received a good deal of mail expressing great frustration with Bill Frist and other Senate Republican leaders over their problems in rounding up a majority to end the filibusters. I understand and share the frustration. The Senate’s treatment of Bush’s judicial nominees is an issue I’ve been preaching about almost since we started Power Line. However, we should keep in mind that Senators to some extent are free agents. One doesn’t control easily (if at all) a John McCain, a Chuck Hagel, an Arlen Specter, or a less formidable personality who represents a very liberal state. If Novak is correct, it means that the leadership has the likes of Hagel, Specter, and Susan Collins in its camp on a vote to fundamentally alter the Senate’s rules in order to confirm some pretty conservative nominees. That’s no small accomplishment. If Novak is wrong, and Frist doesn’t yet have the votes, I wouldn’t assume that it’s his fault.
JOHN agrees: Amen. If Novak’s right, that is.
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