WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Tuesday rejected compromise offers that would allow minority Democrats to continue to block judicial nominees, saying all of President Bush’s past and future court choices deserve confirmation votes from the GOP-controlled Senate.
“At the end of the day, one will be left standing … the Constitution, which allows up-or-down votes, or the filibuster,” Frist said.
Democrats blocked 10 of Bush’s appellate court choices through filibuster threats, which means those nominees would have to get 60 votes before they could be confirmed to lifetime seats on the nation’s second highest court. They have threatened to block again the seven that Bush renominated this year, as well as future ones they consider outside of the mainstream.
Republicans in turn have threatened to use their majority to change senatorial rules to require a simple majority vote for confirmation, in part because they fear a Democratic blockade could affect a Supreme Court vacancy if a high court seat opens in Bush’s second term.
To avoid that showdown, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he had offered Frist a compromise. The Nevada Democrat refused to give full details but said part of that compromise would require Republicans to back away from attempting to ban judicial filibusters.
“I want to emphasize that any potential compromise is contingent on a commitment that the nuclear option will not be exercised in any form during this Congress,” said Reid.
The comprimise includes allowing confirmation votes for three nominees for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – Richard Griffin, David McKeague and Susan Neilson – in exchange for Henry Saad’s nomination to that court being withdrawn. Democrats also would not block confirmation of one of the four remaining filibustered nominees: Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Myers and William Pryor, although it is not clear which one would be chosen for confirmation.
But Frist, earlier in the day, said he would not accept any deal that keeps his Republican majority from confirming judicial nominees that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved.