June 19: Is Another Judicial Filibuster in the Future?

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, June 19, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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WILLIAM PRYOR, JUDICIAL NOMINEE: Even though I strongly disagree with Roe versus Wade (search), I have acted in accordance with it as attorney general and will continue to do so as a Court of Appeals judge.


BRIT HUME, HOST: It does not take much imagination to recognize that a judicial nominee who says openly that he disagrees with the Supreme Court decision on abortion is not going to sail through the narrowly divided U.S. Senate. And the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee found it necessary today to postpone a scheduled vote on the nomination of Mr. Pryor (search), attorney general of Alabama to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

So, what's up? For answers, we turn to a reporter who follow this is stuff more closely than perhaps anyone else, Byron York of National Review.

So, Byron, what was the -- first of all, what's up with this nomination and what does he face if he gets out of committee?

BYRON YORK, NATIONAL REVIEW: Everybody expects that he will get out of the committee on a party line vote. It will be 10 to 9, Republicans to Democrats. He'll go to the full Senate and then the question is will Democrats filibuster him?

So, it's hard to see. Most observers think that if Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada (search) and Priscilla Owens (search) already, there's no way they're not going to filibuster Bill Pryor. So -- but that's down the road.

HUME: But what about this postponement? I mean if they have the votes on a party line vote, why not just go ahead with it?

YORK: It was scheduled for today. The rules allow any senator for any reason, to get a one-week extension and it's just granted automatic. So that would mean the vote would be a week from today. Well, what happened was, because the Democrats have flooded Pryor with follow-up written questions, Orrin Hatch, committee chairman, says, all right, we'll do it next week but then you can put it off again.

HUME: Now he, of course, is the Republican sympathetic to Pryor's cause. So he is the one that imposed the delay.

YORK: Oh, yes. Well, what he wants to do, I think, bottom line incidentally, is the vote will probably come on July 10, after the July 4 recess.

Democrats -- any senator after hearing is allowed to submit written follow-up questions. Most of the time it is kind of pro forma, sometimes there are no questions at all. This time by my informal count, Democrats have submitted 208 questions to him. They're all written. These are Senator Durbin's questions alone. And these are not yes or no questions. I mean they're serious legal issues that Pryor will have to write about quite a bit.

What Republicans were afraid of was if they scheduled the vote for next week and Pryor didn't get these questions -- these answers back until say, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday for a vote on Thursday. Democrats would say we have all these serious questions, it requires a lot of time to go through, we have follow-ups to our follow-ups. And you, Senator Hatch, are trying to jam this nomination to the committee over our objections. So, Hatch just bough himself a little time and said we'll do it later.

HUME: What is to prevent the Democrats from saying -- from filing, when they get these answers back, from filing a whole bunch more questions and further delaying the process indefinitely?

YORK: Well, no. After a point -- after the sort of pro forma delay, the chairman can say we're having a vote. So, I think what Hatch wants to do is appear reasonable, give the Democrats a time to get their questions answered and then at that point say we're having a vote.

HUME: All right.

YORK: The chairman can force the issue.

HUME: OK. So at that point, you get your presumed party line vote, right?

YORK: Right.

HUME: And then the question becomes filibuster. Your view is they will filibuster.

YORK: Well, it's interesting. There was a little hope in some Republican's hearts last month. Senator Feinstein from California, she is a member of the Judiciary Committee, Democrat, said -- it was quoted in an Associated Press story. She said we have got two filibusters going and maybe that's enough. So Republicans' hope soared for a moment. But there's no belief that there's not going to be a filibuster for Pryor.

HUME: So this would make a third filibuster now in progress, if it becomes one, right?

YORK: That is correct.

HUME: And then we have also the question of what, Judge Pickering out there, right?

YORK: That is correct.

HUME: And now, what is the state of play? Judge Pickering, of course, was nominated and blocked in committee during the -- before the Republicans got control of the Senate.

YORK: He was actually voted down in committee.

HUME: Voted down in committee.

YORK: On a party line vote in committee. So...

HUME: Yes, blocked in. Right.

YORK: So, the president re-nominated him just as he did Priscilla Owens.

HUME: Now, has that been voted on yet by the committee? It has.

YORK: It has not.

HUME: It's not.

YORK: It has not been brought up. There's probably going to be another hearing. It is not likely that Pickering himself will show up. There may be other people to discuss issues about Pickering.

HUME: What is likely to happen to him?

YORK: Here again, if they're filibustering Estrada and Owen, it's hard to see why they won't filibuster Pickering.

HUME: So, you count Pryor and Pickering, your estimate would be that we could get up to four, which would be by far a record.

YORK: And we need to add one more, Carolyn Kuhl, who is a Ninth Circuit California judge, who is likely going to be a filibuster on her.

HUME: Now, these are all appellate court nominees, not Supreme Court nominees.

YORK: Right.

HUME: All right. Byron York, very interesting. Thanks very much.

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