One of the senators trying to reach a compromise on judicial filibusters expressed hope Sunday for success ahead of a critical vote this week set by majority Republicans to break the logjam on President Bush’s nominees.
With a meeting scheduled Monday among the dozen or more senators who could force a deal, the possibility of averting a showdown still existed, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But even among that like-minded group, the good will required for a deal that would protect the rights of the minority party — Democrats now — and prevent abuse of the filibuster is elusive in such a bitter partisan atmosphere, said McCain, who is contemplating a run for president in 2008.
“We’re having difficulty coming up with exact language which would portray that desire. It’s tough,” McCain told “Fox News Sunday.”
In the shadow of the next Supreme Court vacancy, the debate over Bush’s judicial nominees has become a fight over the filibuster, a Senate tradition that allows members to hold up legislative business with unlimited talk. Bitterness has festered for years over what both sides say is abuse by the other of that parliamentary tool.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., another presidential hopeful, has given Democrats an ultimatum: Stand aside and allow an up-or-down vote on Bush’s nominees, or prepare to lose the right to filibuster judicial nominations.
Frist’s timetable calls for the critical votes to be cast Tuesday and Wednesday.
Democrats have refused to comply, insisting that the filibuster be preserved as a check on the rights of the Senate minority.
Trying to broker a deal is a group led by McCain and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
Six senators from each party are needed to force a deal whereby future judicial nominees are not blocked and current filibuster rules remain unchanged. McCain said Sunday that more than 12 senators are interested in participating in a compromise.
McCain said several senators have not made known which way they would vote. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republicans’ vote-counter, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Frist would have the 50 votes needed to do away with the filibuster on judicial nominees.
McCain said a deal would not block votes on any nominees, but would preserve for the minority party the tools to kill some nominations.
“There would be a commitment to let most of them go” to a vote, McCain said. “It’s very possible that there would be a vote on all of them, it’s also possible that one or more of them would not reach the Senate floor because of other difficulties that their nomination faces.”