9/16/2005

Democrats are keen obstructionists!!!

Democrats are deeply conflicted about how to vote on the nomination of Judge John Roberts Jr. to be the 17th chief justice of the United States, and appear divided about how, and whether, to use their vote to send a message to President George W. Bush as he selects a candidate to fill a second Supreme Court vacancy.

Roberts' unflappable performance during three days of questioning has clearly put Democrats in a quandary. Some say a strong vote against his nomination could prod the White House into naming a centrist to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial swing vote. Others say that supporting the Roberts nomination could make Democrats appear reasonable, giving them more credibility to oppose the next nominee.

As the Judiciary Committee wrapped up its questioning of Roberts on Thursday morning, Democrats, who have repeatedly assailed the nominee for not being forthcoming, expressed obvious frustration. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, told Roberts that she had "one impression of you when we had our hour in private," and another at the hearing.

That angst is spilling over into the rest of the Democratic caucus, and no Democrat interviewed Thursday would commit one way or the other on the vote. Reid said that six of the eight Democrats on the judiciary panel had conferred, but were still undecided.
Representatives of liberal advocacy groups, who are pressing Democrats to oppose the nomination, said they felt confident of a straight party-line vote, or close to it, when the committee takes up the nomination next Thursday.

The vote will come as Democrats sense Bush is vulnerable. His poll numbers are at the lowest point of his presidency amid public outrage over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Democrats hope to turn that outrage into a powerful message to voters during the 2006 midterm elections.

But Democrats are keenly aware that they risk being labeled obstructionist if they vote in a bloc against a nominee like Roberts, whose legal qualifications are impeccable. And though they have complained bitterly that the White House has refused to provide them access to legal memorandums Roberts wrote when he worked for the first Bush administration, Democrats appear to have little appetite to block the nomination by filibuster on the Senate floor.
Roberts' unflappable performance during three days of questioning has clearly put Democrats in a quandary. Some say a strong vote against his nomination could prod the White House into naming a centrist to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial swing vote. Others say that supporting the Roberts nomination could make Democrats appear reasonable, giving them more credibility to oppose the next nominee.

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