Each week, the news out of the U.S. Senate sounds more and more like the noises from the playroom of our home. "Did not." "Did too." "You started it." Prove it!
The cloture rule does allow for an up or down vote when there is a filibuster. It is just that the issue is deemed important enough to need 60 votes to proceed instead of 51. That doesn’t seem like too high a threshold for a Supreme Court Justice. Leader Frist says he has the votes to overpower the minority and change the Senate rules. Prove it. Democrats are playing chicken with a critical issue, but “they started it.”
This showdown will dictate many other votes over the course of the next year and a half. “Will not.” “Will, too.”
Some of us who have counted votes on numerous issues over the years speculate that the Republicans just don't have the votes. After all, if Frist has the votes, would he stall the way he is this week? Conventional wisdom is correct to focus on the four to six "moderate Republicans” who are here to date undeclared. They hold the cards on this and virtually every other issue the right wing of the GOP cares about. But still, it is a guessing game. So what do you hear?
I hear that Hagel is a definite no but that Warner has told the Leader that he would vote with the majority if he is really needed. McCain's attempts at compromise are being rebuffed by enough of his colleagues that he should respond in kind. But, Susan Collins likes being a Chairman. And Rick Santorum and Bill Frist are not above threats if they want something badly enough. Some of us have wistfully speculated that the leadership isn't paying attention to everyone they should. Aren’t there one or two "pure" conservatives like John Sununu who could go the other way if the stakes get high enough?
You just gotta hope that the emasculation of Arlen Spector last year by the right wing has these moderate Republican members wanting to break out. There is no future for them unless they can first demonstrate and then survive independence from the Radical Right.
Harry Reid is a smart guy. And so I hope that for all the public theater he is demonstrating this week by meeting with Bill Frist, he is really spending most of his time courting the moderate Republicans who have increasing no place to call home in the Senate cloakroom.
People are saying that the Bolton vote will be telling. I don’t think so. Senators won't make the connection. And they are not hearing from home on Bolton. But then they aren't hearing much at home on the rule change either. This is going to be one of those rare votes of consciences for a good number of these folks. Let's hope it is for enough of them.
An aside - David Gergen said something when we were on "Hardball" last week that has stuck with me. I like Gergen because he calls it like he sees it. He doesn't get too caught up in the dems v the repubs, though he has worked for both - he is just an astute observer of the game.
I said that I thought that the Republicans were really taking on this game for so much more than the Supreme Court. That they didn't want to have to expend too much energy on the District and Appeals court nominees but that is where they were determined to make more progress. After all, how many of the President Supreme Court nominees can the Democrats filibuster? One? Two? Three at most? The most Supreme Court appointments in history ever denied a president was only two. Gergen's view was that the White House needs this vote because they otherwise won’t send up a Supreme candidate as conservative as the right wingers need to assure their takeover of our lives.
So the President continues to be a Zelig with even his closest supporters. They‘re not sure what to can expect so they have to escalate every situation. Like six year olds.
The stakes in the playroom are high.