Determined to pressure wavering Republicans, an independent group is launching a costly ad campaign designed to make sure President Bush’s conservative judicial nominees receive swift confirmation.
Over the next two weeks, Progress For America intends to spend $350,000 on “radio ads on Christian stations” and $1.5 million on television ads in six targeted states as well as nationally, according to a memo describing the plans.
The organization planned to unveil its effort Monday. The Associated Press obtained the details independently in advance.
“Senate Democrats have abused the rules and refused to even allow a vote,” says the television ad. “So courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed.”
The ad says it’s the job of a senator to vote, adding: “Urge your senators to vote, up or down.”
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, criticized the ad. “Apparently, no one at Progress For America has studied the Constitution or a U.S. history book, because their advertising campaign is intended to undermine a carefully chosen system of check and balances that has served this country well for more than 200 years,” he said.
Groups allied with Democrats on the issue have advertised in recent weeks, but the campaign by Progress for America represents the largest single commitment so far.
The ad campaign dramatizes the importance the two parties and their allies attach to a struggle that directly impacts the fate of seven appeals court nominees — and also has implications for any Supreme Court vacancy that occurs during Bush’s term.
Democrats blocked 10 of Bush’s first-term appeals court nominees by filibuster, a parliamentary tactic that requires supporters to post 60 votes to advance to a final vote.
The president renominated seven of the 10 after he won re-election. Democrats give every indication they are prepared to block some or all of them again on grounds they are too conservative to warrant lifetime appointments to the bench.
Republicans have responded by threatening to use their majority to ban judicial filibusters. The GOP has 55 of the 100 Senate seats, but two members of the rank and file have announced plans to side with the Democrats and enough others are publicly uncommitted to leave the outcome of any showdown in doubt.
At the same time, recent internal Republican polling found only minority support for the GOP plan to abolish judicial filibusters, with much of the public said it views as political in nature. At the same time, a heavy majority in the same poll favored guaranteeing all nominees a yes-or-no vote.
Against that backdrop, Progress For America intends to advertise in six states this week and on cable television nationally the following week.
The states are Arkansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota and Rhode Island — home to many of the Republicans least enamored of their party’s position on judicial confirmation.
GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has announced plans to vote with the Democrats while Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine are publicly undecided. Republicans have also expressed concern about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s willingness to follow the party leadership on the issue.
Arkansas and North Dakota each have two Democratic senators, and all are expected to support their party’s leadership. Along among them, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota faces re-election in 2006, and Republicans have said they intend to target him for defeat.