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Monday, May 23, 2005
  Supreme Court lurks as real issue
Supreme Court lurks as real issue: "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has orchestrated a solid Democratic front that has succeeded beyond all expectations. It has kept 16 Bush nominees off the appellate bench, some permanently. But Kennedy went too far. Had he blocked two or three judges, the reaction would have been modest. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, hardly a fire-eating Republican, told the Senate Friday that the nominees are being ''held hostage as pawns in a convoluted chess game that is spinning out of control.''

If the Daschle-Kennedy power play had been intended to intimidate the Republicans regarding the Supreme Court, it had the opposite effect. Sen. Gordon Smith, a moderate Oregon Republican who had been a ''qualified'' backer of the ''nuclear option'' as late as Tuesday, went to the Senate floor Thursday to declare unqualified support.

The situation last week was heated oratory on the Senate floor and complicated negotiations off the floor. The two are mixed, as shown in the treatment of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. In the basic compromise, only three of the filibustered nominees would be defeated. Would Owen be among the sacrificial victims?

It might be easier to get the six Republican senators necessary to defeat the nuclear option if Owen, a symbolic victim of the Daschle-Kennedy plan, were confirmed. But she has been so demonized in Senate debate that it is difficult for Democrats to swallow her. Democrat after Democrat has referred to a Texas Supreme Court opinion by Alberto Gonzales, then the court's chief justice and now U.S. attorney general, accusing her of ''an unconscionable act of judicial activism.'' In fact, as Gonzales has made clear, he was not referring to Owen."
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