This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", May 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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MORT KONDRACKE, HOST: Fred, the hot story is bombs away. It’s nuclear-war time in the United States Senate, and it’s going to happen next week, it looks like.
Now, Bill Frist (search), the Republican leader, and Harry Reid (search), the Democratic leader, are still negotiating, but unless the Democrats are prepared to pull back from their threat to filibuster all seven of President Bush’s contested appellate court nominations, especially the four nominees who they consider, "extremists," then it looks like Bill Frist is going to pull the trigger on the so-called nuclear option.
What that involves is, changing the Senate rules by a majority vote to outlaw judicial filibusters, whereas it normally takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate, according to the rules, change the rules.
So, so Frist is going to push away the rules.
Now, both, both parties are responsible for this development, and both sides are going to lose. Both parties are responsible because the Republicans started it by, by locking up President Clinton’s judicial nominations, 60 of them, then the, the Democrats started regularly using the filibuster, which is unprecedented, on judicial nominations.
And now Frist is coming along with the nuclear option, which will end filibusters.
The danger here is that a filibuster ought to be reserved for extraordinary cases where somebody is clearly not qualified or clearly extreme or something like that; there’s not going to be any filibusters, and both sides are going to lose.
Now, this war is being played out not only on the Senate floor but also on television. Here, watch these ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TV COMMERCIAL, PROGRESS FOR AMERICAN)
ANNOUNCER: President Bush nominated them and many others to be federal judges, some as long as four years ago. But Senate Democrats have abused the rules and refused to even allow a vote. So courtrooms sit empty, and thousands of Americans have their cases delayed.
The job of a U.S. Senator is to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TV COMMERCIAL, DSCC)
ANNOUNCER: Frist and DeLay gutting ethics rules, threatening judges, changing the rules as they go along, abusing their power. Frist and DeLay, out of control
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Is that all?
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Out of control? Mort, I think that number 60 that you said of Republicans blocking Clinton judicial nominees (search) is very misleading, because many of those were at the end of Clinton’s term when neither party lets the judicial nominees of a president who may be out of office soon go through.
Now, this is not going to hurt both parties. I don’t know how you say that. You must be joking, Mort.
BARNES: No, wait a minute.
KONDRACKE: They’ll be deprived of the filibuster.
BARNES: No, wait a minute, look. Here’s the new thing. There are the Democrats, as I think you’ve suggested, or hinted at, anyway, have wildly overplayed their hand by systematically violating a 2,000 -- a 200- year -- it could be 2,000...
BARNES: But, at least 200-year tradition of, of not filibustering judges. That just hasn’t happened in a systematic way that the Democrats are doing.
And now they’re saying, If you force us to stop doing this, in other words, if you bar the filibuster in the case of judicial nominations, well, we’ll have a snit, we’ll go, we’ll slow down the Senate, we’ll jam up the business, we won’t let things done.
Look, this can only make Democrats seem as obstructionist, even more than they are now. So for them, it’s bad.
For Republicans, what it would mean is, they’d -- Republicans and President Bush -- would mean all these judicial nominations would get through, and these are conservatives, mainstream conservatives. And for America, what it would do would be to bring some balance to the federal judiciary across the country by bringing in these mainstream conservatives who aren’t going to dream up new rights and who aren’t going to legislate from the bench.
So I think it’s a big plus for Bush and Republicans, a big minus for Democrats.
Now, the other hot story, and this one isn’t quite as good for President Bush, it’s not over, and that’s the fight over John Bolton (search) to be George Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Now, he squeaked through, painfully squeaked through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but now he goes to the floor, and we don’t know when it’s going to get to the floor. I think the sooner the better, but it’s not scheduled until sometime late in May at the earliest.
A lot can happen between now and then. Now, I think they either refuted or the charges against John Bolton, though, he’s a bully, he doctored intelligence, he tried to fire people, and so on, all of that stuff, I think, was untrue, or wildly exaggerated.
But, I mean, you never know. The opposition can, Barbara Boxer (search) has a hold on the nomination, and, as I say, it’s not over yet. I think he deserves to be the nominee.
I was amazed that George Voinovich (search), the senator, who let it go to the floor, he’s a Republican who’s going to vote against it on the floor, with his idea with somehow in this day and age, in this world, Europeans are right, and the liberals are right about the big problem is the Bush foreign policy and America’s relationship with Europe as good any more.
So a tough guy like John Bolton shouldn’t be at the U.N. I think that’s crazy. Listen to Voinovich and then George Allen’s response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
U.S. SENATOR GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I’m afraid that his confirmation will tell the world that we’re not dedicated to repairing our relationship or working as a team, that -- but that we believe only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly with the international community.
U.S. SENATOR GEORGE ALLEN (R): We are not electing Mr. Congeniality. We do not need Mr. Milquetoast in the United States. We’re not electing Mr. Peepers to go there and just be really happy and drinking tea with their pinkies up and just saying all these, these meaningless things when we do need a straight talker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Now, look, John Bolton is not going to be secretary of state, he’s not going to be making policy. He’s going to be at the U.N. carrying out policy. And if George Bush and Condi Rice want a mean, tough guy up there, and there’s every reason to think that the U.N. requires a mean, tough guy, I say, let him through. And, and we’ll see what the consequences are, whether it, whether it works or it doesn’t work.
So, you know, I’m, I’m in favor of letting, letting Bush have who he wants.
BARNES: Well, so am I, but it’s not over yet. OK.
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