Monday, October 31, 2005

Round three

Social conservatives finally have the kind of Supreme Court nominee who puts stars in their eyes in the form of Samuel "Scalito" Alito of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He's personally anti-abortion -- at least according to his mother -- and is widely known as "the most conservative member" of the 3rd Circuit. He's also got more time on the bench than any other nominee in the last 70 years, which takes the qualifications card off the table and turns the debate toward judicial philosophy.

This nomination likely will implicate the future not only of the Supreme Court but also of the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., already has threatened to renew the quest to detonate the nuclear option, which would kill the filibuster on judicial nominees (and, incidentally, break Senate rules), and Democrats seem determined to put up a stern fight against Alito.

Moderate GOP senators like Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and John McCain of Arizona will provide the decisive votes on both Alito's nomination and the nuclear option. It'll be interesting to see how many of them, if any, break ranks with the increasingly unpopular Bush administration. It'll also be interesting to see how many of the conservatives whose criticism forced Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination revert to the refrain about every candidate deserving an up-or-down vote.

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