This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," May 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Welcome, senator.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Glad to see you, Brit.
HUME: So walk me through this. So now these three judges who were enumerated in the deal, they go through [the] up-or-down votes...
WARNER: Presumably, yes.
HUME: ... and they're expected to be confirmed?
WARNER: And we saw one very strong vote today.
HUME: Yes, 81 to — what about — by the way, seven Democrats agreed in last night's deal to vote for cloture. But 27 or so voted on this deal. What accounts for that?
WARNER: Let's just accept the vote for what it is and go on. The agreement that we put together last night puts the Senate back on the rail to run again.
It's up to the two leaders, really, to keep that train going down the track and try and return the Senate to the way we operated up to the 108th Congress when you had that, you know, leadership-led massive filibuster against Circuit Court judges. That had never taken place in history before.
HUME: All right. Now, there was an assertion by Senator Reid and others that this so-called nuclear option, which would have been a rules change by parliamentary ruling backed up by a majority vote...
HUME: ... is now off the table. However, let us look ahead, Senator Warner, and posit a situation in which we're past these three judges who were enumerated in the deal, and another of the judges already nominated, or a new one comes along, and Democrats announce they're going to filibuster. What happens then?
WARNER: Well, let's go back to your opening statement. This filibuster rule that we preserved by virtue of this framework — clearly in the agreement, and I've got a copy here, the constitutional option, which we call it, is not off the table. And we all 14 understand that. It is very much on the table.
To use an example, we simply unscrewed the fuse. But that fuse can be put back in if we detect that it's not extraordinary circumstances, but we're back to where the Democrats begin to trot out and do a leadership-led type of series of filibusters.
At that point, senators, seven senators of which I was one, any one or more of them may say, "Time out. I'm not satisfied that this is extraordinary circumstances as a matter of good conscience. I'm going to give leader Bill Frist the vote." And then Frist can ascertain whether or not he wants to use that constitutional measure.
HUME: And just as a matter of math, there appear to have been something like 48 Republicans who were prepared, if it came to that today, to vote for the so-called nuclear option, the constitutional option, as you prefer to call it, which means that it would only take two out of your group of seven to react to a Democratic-mounted filibuster by saying, "This is a deal-breaker."
WARNER: And utilizing the vice president, your math is correct.
HUME: Right. So it only takes two Republicans to break and say, "Senator Frist, we're back ready to go with this," and this thing could be used again.
WARNER: Your math is correct.
HUME: All right. So what is your view of what might constitute extraordinary circumstances?
WARNER: It's subjective. This whole framework agreement is dependent on the old traditions of the Senate, really 214 years up until we got to 108. And that is, you mutually respect one another. There's a certain degree of mutual trust.
As you know, the Senate is different from the House because we run on the concept of unanimous consent. You only obtain that if there's a measure of mutual respect and trust on both sides. This framework puts it back on the track, and it's running now. Look at that vote today.
HUME: Would it be your judgment that, if the Senate were back to the way it used to do business, that while someone might mount a filibuster for the purpose of delaying a nomination, that the likelihood of a systematic filibuster would be very, very limited?
WARNER: You know, I'm not going to try to speculate. This is a remarkable piece of paper. It took us two weeks really to work it out.
We finally came together over the weekend. I had the opportunity to work with our colleagues over the weekend. And there's no way, if we had written this in 20 pages, to answer all the possibilities and conjecture of what might happen. So I'm not going to try and conjecture. I am proud that I worked with this group.
It was a conscientious, hard-working group. I felt all along myself that, if the constitutional option was exercised, I could not predict the certainty that the Senate — how it would operate henceforth, whether it would strengthen or weaken the Senate, whether it would readjust the balance of power between executive and legislative branches. Too many unknowns concerned me.
HUME: What did you fear would happen?
WARNER: I'm not going to speculate. As I say, I've been trained much like the military. When you take on a mission, you better know how ... you're going to fulfill it and what's the outcome of the various options. You couldn't make that prediction...
HUME: You didn't think it would lead, though, inevitably to the end of the filibuster against legislative measures, did you?
WARNER: I personally would not have ever supported that on the Republican side. But what goes around comes around. As you know, as you said, I've been there 27 years. I've served on the majority and minority.
And if we exercise this constitutional option only for the judicial nominations during this Congress, we were not successful in ... elections for the next one, you lay a foundation for the Democrats to come in and say, 'You did this. We're going to do this.'
HUME: On judges, now we're doing it on laws?
HUME: All right. In this current atmosphere in Washington — you have been around for bitter times before. You remember the Nixon era and the end of his [presidency]...
WARNER: Oh, yes, I served in that administration.
HUME: You did. And you remember, of course, the impeachment of Clinton. Have you ever seen the poison in this city so bad? Last question, quick answer.
WARNER: No. I don't think — you know, I look back over the whole panoply of the history of the United States. Congress, by virtue of the way it's constructed, is a contentious, fractious group of people.
HUME: It doesn't worry you?
WARNER: It doesn't worry me, but it should worry some of the people who can't fully understand. And that's why I did not...
HUME: I have got to stop you, senator.
WARNER: Yes, sir. Thank you very much.
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