Thursday, September 15, 2005

More battles to choose wisely (Roberts)

I'm going to make a prediction. When John Roberts' nomination is voted on in the Judiciary Committee, it will not be a party line vote. Roberts will receive at least a few Democratic votes. My gut feeling is it will be a 14-4 vote. Then on the floor he will receive a solid majority.

This is hardly a earth shattering prediction. I've read plenty of people opining that Roberts will get upwards up 70 votes on the floor (although I don't remember reading much speculation about the committee). But here's my reasoning. A party line vote opposing Roberts would be a strategic blunder for the Democrats. Given his impeccable credentials, strong performance at the hearings and lack of any concrete reason to oppose him, a party line vote would be a clear announcement that the left will not accept any nominee from the Republican president. This statement would in effect marginalize them. Why would President Bush pay any more attention to their "advice" when basically any nominee would get the same response? The Democrats need to able to show through their votes that a more conservative nominee, someone in the mold of Scalia, is more objectionable. Otherwise the Senate will turn into a partisan rubber stamp on judicial nominees. Barring a filibuster, of course, but I don't think Senate Democrats are eager to see how a filibuster of a SCOTUS nominee would play with the American people, particularly since a number of them from Republican leaning states will be up for election in 2006.

I could be wrong in either my analysis of the strategic situation or how much the Democrats are beholden to their fund raising interest groups (who would no doubt urge complete opposition if Bush nominated a clone of Thurgood Marshall). But I wanted to on the record now, so I can take credit if I turn out to be right.

Update (9/16): Michael Barone, one of the most knowledgeable guys around when it comes to politics, writes that the committee Dems will all vote against Roberts but many other Dems will vote for the nomination. Obviously we won't know until it happens, but Barone's opinion is generally worth listening too.

Update (9/21): Floor vote prediction is 70-75 votes. I posted this in the comments thread on Polipundit so I figured I ought to put it here as well.

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