Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Would Democrats Have Voted for Miers?

You may remember that Harriet Miers was originally nominated to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. She was an unexpected nominee. Conservatives complained mightily that she was not qualified and was not a conservative choice. When some of her past speeches, embarrassing to a Bush judicial nominee, were made public, Miers requested the withdrawal of her nomination. Pres. Bush then nominated Judge Sam Alito.

Several Democrats said that the withdrawal of the Miers nomination in response to conservative criticism and the substitution of Alito showed that Bush was acting to please extreme right wingers. When the nomination of Alito came up for a vote by the full Senate this morning, Democrats voted 40-4 against confirming Justice Sam Alito.

The result of the Senate vote and the preceding sequence of events raises the interesting question of whether Senate Democrats would have voted for Miers. One Democrat who had recommended the nomination of Miers was Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate Minority Leader. Normally, when a senator recommends someone, the senator is a certain vote for the recommended nominee. However, when asked the question, Reid surprisingly refused to commit that he would have voted for Miers.

Last week, I saw an interview of Ralph Neas, the head of People for the American Way (PFAW), the leading liberal interest group on judicial nominees. Thus, Neas is the most influential liberal on judicial nominees. The interviewer, a liberal but a fair-minded one, asked Neas whether he and PFAW would have supported Miers. Neas also refused to make a firm commitment.

Senate Democrats used the withdrawal of the Miers nomination as a reason to oppose Alito, who could only be a Kool-Aid-drinking conservative to be nominated in those circumstances. Just a few months ago, 22 of the 44 Senate Democrats voted against now Chief Justice John Roberts, probably the best qualified Supreme Court in my lifetime. The motivating factor for many Democrats in the Roberts and Alito votes is their need for the money and volunteers that will come from the most liberal interest groups. (PFAW, for example, has 750,000 members, who are more active and liberal than most voters.) Roberts was so obviously and highly qualified that half the Senate Democrats voted to confirm him. The Democrats who voted for Roberts were threatened with a withdrawal of financial support and votes.

The most activist Democrat voters are very liberal and are spoiling for a fight against anything Bush does. If a Senate Democrat wants their support, the senator will oppose Bush's judicial nominees in the strongest way. Note that all the Senate Democrats who are aiming to run for president in 2008 (Clinton, Kerry, Biden, Feingold) voted to filibuster the nomination of Alito.

Considering the political motivations for Senate Democrats and the public statement of leading individuals, it is unlikely that a majority of Senate Democrats would have voted for Miers. No matter what the Senate Democrats say about how Pres. Bush should not have withdrawn the Miers nomination, very few of them were going to vote for Miers.

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