Senate Freshmen Debate Filibuster Rule

Sen.-elect Ken Salazar (search) on Sunday predicted a "bloody fight" if the Senate's Republican leadership tries to change rules that allowed minority Democrats to block votes on judicial nominees they considered unacceptable.

The Colorado Democrat, who appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" with incoming Republican Sens. John Thune (search) of South Dakota and Johnny Isakson (search) of Georgia, said a push to change the filibuster rule would negate any move toward bipartisanship Republicans have made.

"I think it's going to be a bloody fight and I would hope that it could be avoided," Salazar said. "I think that the best thing to do is for the president to have consultation both with Republicans and with Democrats prior to making the appointments."

He said such consultation could help both parties avoid bitter confirmation fights.

But he said it would be a mistake to change a rule that has been in place for some 200 years.

"I think it would send out the wrong signal of the kind of approach that both Sen. Thune and Sen. Isakson and others have been trying to take and that is that we're going to work on the issues of the country together," Salazar said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said the filibuster allows "tyranny by the minority," and he will do whatever it takes to end it.

Republicans say use of the filibuster to prevent votes on 10 judicial nominees in the past two years was unprecedented and unconstitutional. Democrats say they were judiciously exercising a legitimate right.

Both Thune and Isakson said they would support changing the rule.

"The ideal situation in the upcoming Congress would be for the first judicial appointment, for the Democrats not to block it or not use the cloture vote to block it," Isakson said. "That would create the environment that John and Ken and all of us seek."

A two-thirds vote in the Senate could bring "cloture," or an end to debate on an issue.

On other issues, Salazar said bipartisan cooperation will be needed to succeed in the war in Iraq (search). Success will require ensuring that U.S. troops have all the training and equipment they need, as well as seeking a stronger international coalition.

"It is not a mission that the United States can accomplish alone," he said.

Salazar expressed skepticism of Bush's proposal to reform Social Security (search), which the Colorado attorney general said could increase the deficit by up to $2 trillion.

Bush has not yet detailed his plans. But he's expected to propose letting workers divert some of the 6.2 percent payroll tax they now pay on wages into private investment accounts in exchange for smaller Social Security benefits.

"At a time when we are facing the largest deficits that the United States has ever faced in its history, it ought to be something that should be of concern not only to the president but to our entire country," Salazar said. "Until we figure out a way of making sure how we are going to pay for the privatization of Social Security, it should be of concern to us."