WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are "not going to cut and run" from a battle over President Bush's judicial nominations, the party's leader vowed Tuesday, adding that some Democrats regret not having blocked even more appointments.
"If they bring back the same judges we're going to do the same thing," Sen. Harry Reid (search), D-Nev., said of the administration. Democrats blocked votes on 10 of Bush's first-term appointments to the courts and confirmed more than 200.
Republicans have threatened to change long-standing Senate rules to strip Democrats of their ability to block votes, but Reid sounded a note of defiance. "Well, let them do it," he said.
Pelosi, D-Calif., accused the administration of using Social Security as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from "others areas where they're not having success."
She and Reid have been sharply critical of Bush's call for voluntary personal accounts as part of broader legislation to place Social Security (search) on a sounder financial footing.
Reid said not a single Democratic member of the Senate favors using payroll taxes (search) to create personal accounts. And Pelosi said any Social Security legislation "shouldn't begin by slashing benefits." Bush administration officials have said the president may recommend reducing the benefits guaranteed future retirees as part of his plan.
Pelosi said that Bush's plan envisioned taking an "unconscionable, obscene, immoral amount of money to privatize" Social Security.
Reid and Pelosi both said they could work with any of the contenders vying to become the next chairman of the Democratic Party, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean among them.
Dean has emerged as a leading contender for the party's top post. The one-time presidential hopeful spoke critically recently of Reid's earlier remark suggesting he could vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (search) as chief justice.
"I don't think that's where most Democrats are," Dean said last weekend in New York, although he added, "I sympathized with him, because many times in the campaign I said a few things like that without thinking through the implications of what I was saying."
Reid declined to be drawn into a discussion of Dean and Scalia, joking, "My latest thought on this is, I don't know Scalia."
Pelosi told reporters she believed that if elected chairman, Dean would "take his lead from us" on some issues.
Perhaps inadvertently, she seemed to acknowledge some concern over the former governor's possible ascension. "He hasn't been elected yet. Why don't we spend time on the crises we have," she said.