Democrats United Against 'Nuclear' Option

Published March 02, 2005

| Associated Press

Senate Republicans are game to see several of President Bush's judicial nominees confirmed for the bench but Democrats oppose many of them. On Tuesday, Sen. Robert Byrd (search) compared Republican tactics on nominees to Adolph Hitler's use of power in Nazi Germany.

Byrd, of West Virginia (search), also said that if the GOP were to succeed in preventing Democratic filibusters of Bush's nominees, the move would "incinerate" the rights of all senators.

"For the temporary gain of a handful of out-of-the-mainstream judges, some in the Senate (search) are ready to callously incinerate each senator's right of extended debate," Byrd said in remarks on the Senate floor.

As many as 10 of Bush's nominees face the threat of filibuster, including William Myers, former lead counsel at the Interior Department who is up for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered by many to be the most liberal bench in the land.

Myers has majority support in the Senate, but lacks the 60 votes needed to shatter a filibuster. To get past that barrier, Republicans would like to use their majority power to change the threshold.

Byrd compared the move, not yet undertaken, to Hitler's abuse of power.

"Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. He recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side," he said.

GOP leaders continue to study their options, weighing the value of approving judges against enraging Democrats and creating further gridlock.

"In terms of how it goes, I am trying to show restraint and I am asking the Democrats to show restraint," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said.

Democrats warn that any attempt to end filibusters will provoke all-out procedural war — bringing Senate action on the rest of Bush's agenda to a grinding halt.

"To basically trample and trench on those longstanding historic rules, I think, would disrupt the Senate in a way that would make it extremely difficult for it to function in any meaningful way for the rest of the session," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also argued that the president has won most confirmation battles anyway.

"We have an obligation by virtue of the Constitution to give advice and consent to the president. We've done that; we approved 204 judges, turned down 10," Reid of Nevada said.

Republicans suffered one defeat on Tuesday when newly elected Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar asked the president to withdraw the judicial nominees he has submitted to the Senate. Salazar said the president's renominations will lead to "animosity and divisiveness."

Republicans had hoped to peel Salazar away from the Democrats' filibuster coalition. Byrd's harsh attacks also seemed to spook GOP leaders who suggested that he would not have come out swinging like that if he did not have virtually every Democrat behind him.

The standoff leads discouraging signs for the GOP, according to one aide, who said the Democrats appear to have the upperhand in this debate.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/03/02/democrats-united-against-nuclear-option