GOP Look to Byrd as Precedent-Setter

Republicans say their attempt to change Senate rules to eliminate judicial filibusters follows a precedent set by Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd (search).

The West Virginia senator says he never tried to change the rules to shut down a minority party.

Republicans have been pointing to Byrd's stint as majority leader as justification for current Majority Leader Bill Frist's plan to modify Senate rules to stop Democrats from filibustering future judicial nominees.

Democrats have blocked 10 U.S. Appeals Court nominees by threatening to filibuster (search) -- or stall the nomination through extended debate. The Senate has confirmed 204 of President Bush's 214 trial and appellate judicial nominees.

Republicans argue that Frist is doing the same thing Byrd did to them when he was majority leader. In 1977, 1979 and 1980, Byrd either threatened to change the filibuster rule or made a modification to it and opened the door to future changes, conservatives said.

"What Senator Frist is considering doing is not unprecedented. It was done by Senator Byrd when he was majority leader," Deputy Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told FOX News.

"They are wrong. Dead wrong," Byrd said in a Senate speech last month. "They draw analogies where none exist and create cock-eyed comparisons that fail to withstand even the slightest intellectual scrutiny."