Hatch Not Telling Truth on GOP SCOTUS Filibusters
by Jonathan Singer, Tue May 05, 2009 at 08:00:20 PM EDT
Reading through an article in The Hill suggesting that incoming ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Jeff Sessions, who himself was rejected by a Republican-led iteration of the panel 23 years ago, is opposed to filibusters of judicial nominations on the basis of ideology, it's hard to tell if this is something Democrats can hold the Alabama Republican to or if it's just posturing before Republicans declare President Obama's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Souter -- whoever the pick should be -- too liberal to be seated on the bench. (It's worth noting that Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin says that eight Republican Senators have pledged to him that they would not mount a filibuster, for whatever that's worth.)
But one thing I can tell is that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who previously served as the top Republican on the panel, is simply not telling the truth about the GOP's history of filibustering Supreme Court nominees.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also called for a strict constructionist -- "somebody who will interpret the laws rather than make them" -- and said that he also believes a filibuster can be avoided.
"Republicans have never filibustered a Supreme Court nominee, and I don't think we're going to start now," he said. [emphasis added]
Hatch's statement is just not backed up by the facts. Here's The Washington Post debunking Hatch four years ago:
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said in a Senate speech last week, "The crisis created by the unprecedented use of filibusters to defeat judicial nominations must be solved."
Such claims, however, are at odds with the record of the successful 1968 GOP-led filibuster against President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas to be chief justice of the United States. "Fortas Debate Opens with a Filibuster," a Page One Washington Post story declared on Sept. 26, 1968. It said, "A full-dress Republican-led filibuster broke out in the Senate yesterday against a motion to call up the nomination of Justice Abe Fortas for Chief Justice."
Regardless of how much Republicans try to obfuscate, the fact remains that their hands are not clean, having launched the first ever filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. This isn't to say that this fact should provide them precedent to up their expected opposition to whomever President Obama picks for the Court to a full-on filibuster. But let this all serve as a clear indication that Senate Republicans aren't going to be wedded to the truth in their efforts to oppose the President in this matter.