Monthly Archives: October 2003

What is Senator Hatch Thinking?

This Los Angeles Times article on the filibuster of Charles Pickering, Sr. includes the following two paragraphs:

    After the vote, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) predicted that the Republican Senate majority would soon take steps to suppress the Democrats’ ability to use filibusters to thwart judicial nominees.
    He said that the framers of the Constitution did not envision that a minority of senators would be able to block a nomination on the Senate floor.

What is Hatch thinking? Readers of this blog will recall that Senator Lott made similar statements months ago during the Estrada filibuster, where he threatened the “nuclear option.” Among other things the idea was that Republicans would reverse the filibuster rules by a simple majority vote.
Don’t count on it. As I have explained in detail here, it would not be rational for Republicans to eliminate the filibuster though it is rational for them to threaten to do so. Democrats have an incentive to filibuster only a handful of the judicial candidates that they can market to their base as the most extreme. If the filibuster were used more widely, the “obstructionist” label used by Republicans would start to stick.
In the meantime, Republicans try to get as much mileage out of the controversy as possible. The Pickering vote was obviously timed to try to affect the outcome of the Mississippi gubernatorial race.
I expect this pattern of selective filibustering and name-calling to continue without much change until after the 2004 elections. If Bush is reelected and Republicans gain strength in the Senate, Democratic filibusters will likely disappear or be curtailed. If Bush is reelected and Democrats gain strength, I expect that Bush will either moderate his nominees or the filibusters will continue. If a Democrat is elected, I expect Republicans to block judicial nominations of some Democratic nominees, by filibuster if necessary. Democrats, of course, will then deride the filibusters as hypocritical.
Business in Washington continues as usual.

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USC Conference: Post-Mortem on the Recall

USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics will be holding a conference, Post-Mortem on the Recall, on November 13 and 14. Details here. The conference is sponsored by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, the Annenberg School for Communication at USC, the USC/Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, the Initiative and Referendum Institute, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, and the California Center for Education in Public Affairs.

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