This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," April 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: Senator, thanks for joining us. Do you expect — first of all, do you expect now you made this offer, while there was obviously little enthusiasm for it from Senator Reid, the Democratic leader, that he will make a counteroffer? Is that where this matter now stands?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Brit, I don't know. I think their initial reaction was a knee-jerk reaction before they even looked at the offer. I base it on Senator Reid's response on the floor after I made the offer.
This proposal is a proposal that addresses their principled concern, or at least what they have said over the last few days, and that is that the majority party has locked up people in the past in committee. It addresses that. Where...
HUME: Let me stop for a second. It addresses that by — you are proposing here some procedural changes...
FRIST: That's right.
HUME: ... that would mean you could no longer — filibusters aside, you could no longer bottle up nominations in committee and keep them from coming to the floor?
FRIST: That's correct.
HUME: And then secondly you're offering, when they do come to the floor, you can talk about them for up to 100 hours, but then it's time to vote?
FRIST: That's right.
HUME: Is that the essence of the offer?
FRIST: That's exactly right. It's two-folded. It addresses their biggest concern in committee and ours, this unprecedented filibuster on the floor. And let me just say, it sticks with the principle of
fairness, but also the principle that these nominees get an up-or-down vote, that we do our duty as United States senators.
HUME: Well, obviously, the Democrats have a different view of whether it's fair or not. But let me ask you this. Is this, on your part, then a final offer?
FRIST: Well, no. I'm not going to say it's a final offer. I can say that we are addressing their major concerns. And it sticks with the principle that we feel strongly about, consistent with advice and consent in the Constitution.
And so it's not going to be a final offer. I can say that we've been negotiating and talking now for three months. And still they say they threaten to filibuster, that they will filibuster, they will
obstruct. And until recently, Senator Reid said they're going to shut down the Senate and shut down the government.
HUME: Well, they have backed off that, though, haven't they?
FRIST: No, I know. As long as there continues to be movement in a direction that it's based on principle, it's based on fairness, we'll continue to talk. But again, the bottom line is to get all of these an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate.
HUME: Well, as you noted earlier, this did not elicit much initial enthusiasm from Democrats, including Senator Reid. But let me ask you this. How much help is it to you to make offers like this one in keeping Republicans who might be disinclined to see the Senate rules changed here to go along with that?
FRIST: Yes, Brit, I think my goal is to base everything on principle. But I think it is important as leader of the United States Senate that we engage the other side and really exhaust whether it's a rule change and put the Frist-Miller approach which accomplishes that last year. They turned that down.
We have had proposals going back and forth, most recently one from Senator Reid which was sort of a spin-the-bottle approach and dump four overboard and let three go through and you pick. That doesn't make sense.
And what I'm doing is responding with a very fair — what I regard a fair proposal. At some point, if we really can't get these nominees an up-or-down vote, if you have people like Priscilla Owen, 10 years on the Supreme Court, waiting for two years, 84 percent approval rate, and we don't give her the courtesy of a vote as she's waiting out here on the floor? That's wrong.
HUME: I've got you, Senator.
Let me ask you. Can you say categorically right now that you will not go along with any offer that fails to assure that not only these nominees but that future nominees for these appellate courts or the Supreme Court will be guaranteed a vote?
FRIST: Well, that's the principle. It's kind of hard to cut the principle in half. And it really is both the current nominees that the president just nominated and recently and also the ones in the future. So the appellate and the Supreme Court nominees deserve this up-or-down vote.
HUME: So the answer is yes?
HUME: All right, now, how about votes? You heard, for example, Senator Lugar on "FOX News Sunday" recently say that if it gets down to it, and you are not able to make a deal, that he would go along with you.
What about other members? You know, Senator McCain has expressed some limited enthusiasm for making this so-called nuclear option change. Similarly, Senator McCain has been hesitant about it. How do they stand in your judgment? And how do you stand on the votes?
FRIST: Yes, you know, I'm not going to do sort of whip counts on television or otherwise. I do believe that all of my colleagues understand what advice and consent means. I believe all of them — and speaking to my Republican colleagues and I would hope most of the Democratic colleagues — understand that what happened in the last Congress was unprecedented.
And we were not able to give advice and consent when a majority of United States senators were prevented from voting, and supporting, and confirming judges. That was wrong. And I think a majority of senators recognize that that was wrong.
HUME: While I have you, Senator, the Bolton nomination, both you and Senator Lugar have spoken with some optimism about it in recent days. Will it reach the floor? Will he be confirmed?
FRIST: I believe that he will. And I say that recognizing it's going to be a lot of this back-and-forth, an allegation comes that's debunked. He fundamentally is a strong man. He will be confirmed, ultimately, I believe, on the Senate floor.
HUME: Senator Frist, a pleasure to have you, sir. Thank you very much.
FRIST: Thank you, Brit.
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