GOP Sen Martinez Defends Sotomayor

The video is over at Real Clear Politics for those interested, but here's what Florida's Republican Senator Mel Martinez had to say about Sonia Sotomayor:

CNN reported that Judge Sotomayor recently received a "big boost from the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate." Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) said that, "For someone who is of Latin background, personally, I understand what she is trying to say. Which is, the richness of her experience forms who she is. It forms who I am, that does not mean that that she has allowed that to filter her opinions, at least not that I've seen so far."

Per the Associated Press, Martinez also believes that Sotomayor will be confirmed "with pretty good numbers."

Doing all the math, then, with Martinez seemingly backing Sotomayor, Maine's two Senators not particularly likely to support a filibuster of her nomination (it's hard to see how they come out in strong opposition to the nomination), and at least a handful of other Republicans likely to back the President's pick (seven of the current 40 Republican Senators have already voted to confirm Sotomayor), it's awfully difficult to count up to 41 votes to sustain a filibuster. Am I missing something?

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GOP Already Trying to Slow Obama's SCOTUS Nom

Are the Republicans really trying to obstruct President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court before he or she has even been named?

Senate Republican leaders emerged from a meeting with President Obama Wednesday and immediately began laying the groundwork for opposing Democratic efforts to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed before the August recess.

[...]

Conservatives would like to see the process to be delayed until after the summer recess, which begins Aug. 10 for the Senate.

[...]

Democrats would prefer as to avoid having a nominee left hanging during the monthlong recess.

There goes the credibility of the Republicans. No doubt they would have had immense difficulty doing anything outside of slightly slowing down Barack Obama's pick to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. While they could attempt a filibuster, it's hard to see where they would get 41 votes to sustain such a nearly unprecedented tactic.

But coming out against the President's nominee even before that nominee has been named smacks of knee-jerked naysaying -- and totally blows any shot, however slim (and we're talking extremely thin), that the Republicans could have successfully blocked the nomination by arguing the merits (not that the merits would be on their side, of course). If the Republicans want to delay approval of any nominee, how can they legitimately argue against a particular nominee?

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GOP Senator Admits Party Leadership is Abysmal

Following up on Todd's post earlier today, you know it's a bad time for a party when the leading truth-teller is best known, at least in the political realm, for cheating in a candidate debate by using a teleprompter.

Sen. Jim Bunning today renewed his attacks on his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of selfishness and being responsible for lost GOP seats in the Senate.

[...]

Asked if the leadership he was referring to was McConnell, Bunning answered: "Obviously. Do you want me to spell it out for you?"

He said: "Do you realize that under our dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 and probably to 40 (Senate seats) in two election cycles, and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle. So if leadership means anything, it means you don't lose ... approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership."

Reading between the lines, it's not hard to see that these comments are more about hurt feelings on the part of Jim Bunning than they are a recognition on the part of the GOP that the party has been hemorrhaging seats in Congress in recent cycles and appears headed to continue the trend next year. Still, it's about time somebody in the Republican Party -- even one who complained of being battered by "little green doctors" -- stood up and said the obvious: The current leadership of the party is leading Republicans astray to near oblivion.

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Filibustering Obama's Supreme Court Picks?

We all know that during the 110th Congress, Senate Republicans shattered the all-time record for filibusters, obstructing more legislation than any party's caucus in the previous 109 Congresses. Yet as bad as that was, and making 60 votes the requirement for virtually all non-budgetary legislation, the GOP's latest threats nevertheless stand out as particularly atrocious.

President Barack Obama should fill vacant spots on the federal bench with former President Bush's judicial nominees to help avoid another huge fight over the judiciary, all 41 Senate Republicans said Monday.

[...]

In other words, Republicans are threatening a filibuster of judges if they're not happy.

It's never been the rule that a minority caucus in the Senate has had the power to filibuster a President's Supreme Court nominee. Back in 1991, the Democrats did not force the Republicans to come up with 60 votes to put Clarence Thomas on the Court -- and they had 48 votes (including two Republicans) in opposition to the far right jurist. Similarly, the Democrats opted against filibustering Samuel Alito even though 42 members of their caucus opposed his nomination.

Indeed, only once in the history of the United States has a party decided to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, which the Republicans (what a shock that it was the Republicans, not the Democrats) did back in 1968 when sitting Associate Justice Abe Fortas was nominated by Lyndon Johnson to be elevated to the position of Chief Justice.

The filibuster of Fortas was an abomination four decades ago, just as the filibuster of a nominee of Barack Obama to the high court would be an abomination today. So today's Senate Republicans deserve a great deal of ridicule and excoriation for even attempting to make the threat (which, by the way, I am still skeptical they will have the gall to follow through on).

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Go Ahead, Let Republicans Filibuster a Long-Term AMT Fix

For the better part of the past three decades the Republican Party has promoted itself as the party of tax cuts. What happens, though, when Republicans filibuster legislation that would ensure that as many as 50 million Americans don't get caught in the net of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to ensure that the wealthiest among us weren't able to get out of paying federal income taxes? That might not be the way the media is framing this story -- or even how the Democrats are, for that matter -- but that question comes at the heart of the debate over how to deal with the AMT this session of Congress. Edmund L. Andrews reports.

Senate Democrats face an agonizing choice in the days ahead: find a way to raise at least $50 billion in new taxes, or undermine their most important rule for enforcing budget discipline.

With the end of the year fast approaching, Congress has to pass another one-year fix to prevent the alternative minimum tax -- a tax originally created to make sure millionaires paid income taxes -- from engulfing about 23 million households with incomes as low as $50,000.

Democrats and Republicans alike want to prevent that increase, just as they have in the past, but the one-year cost has ballooned and Democratic "pay as you go" rules now require Congress to make up for the lost revenue.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a $76 billion bill that would freeze the alternative minimum tax, extend several other tax breaks and pay for that mainly by eliminating a major tax break for people who run private equity funds and scores of other investment partnerships.

But Senate Democrats are less than enthusiastic about that tax increase, and they worry that they cannot muster the 60-vote majority they will need to pass any measure that would comply with the pay-as-you-go rule. [empphasis added]

First of all, shame on Andrews for calling Charlie Rangel's AMT legislation a "tax increase." It is not a tax increase. Not whatsoever. The measure being forwarded in the House by Ways and Means chairman Rangel is a tax reform, one intended to be revenue neutral. While some will see their tax liabilities go up, others -- in fact many others -- will see their tax liabilities go down. In the aggregate, there will be no increase in the amount of taxes being paid by the American people. Ronald Reagan, along with the Democratic House and the Republican Senate, passed tax reform legislation in 1986 that cut taxes for some and raised taxes for other. That measure was not deemed a "tax increase" -- and neither should Rangel's bill.

Leaving aside that shoddy word usage by Andrews, if the Democrats want to have any success on this issue, they're going to have to begin talking about it in a cogent way. This means calling out the Republicans for threatening to filibuster legislation that would ensure that 23 million households don't all of the sudden find themselves subject to a tax initially aimed at the extremely conniving wealthy. That's exactly what Republicans are doing -- threatening to filibuster a reasonable tax reform bill that would save billions for millions of Americans because of their extremist ideology, on the basis of which they are unwilling to pay for pay for today through offsets rather than tomorrow through borrowing.

This is how this issue should be framed. Andrews says it, though not emphatically: "Republicans [are] insisting on 60 votes to limit debate," which is another way of saying they are filibustering the legislation. Now I'm under no delusion that this is necessarily the way this issue is going to play out. But if the Democrats want to win, they're going to have to play hardball -- and in this case that means beating the Republicans at their own game.

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