Friday, September 16, 2005

The Hearings End -- What Now?

A discussion on Ann Althouse's blog prompted me to respond. Here is a slightly edited version of that post:

Now that the Roberts hearings are over it will be interesting to see the next moves by the President and the Senate Democrats, particularly with reference to the still-open seat.

On one hand, the Democrats could set up Roberts as a benchmark for future nominees. Roberts sets a mark that would be hard for almost anyone to meet, and that would make it easier to oppose the next Bush appointment without necessarily looking like ideologues.

On the other hand, they may have been too aggressive already in attacking Roberts to be able to sell a vote for him either to their base or to the public which might smell some partisan chicanery in the air. (Could the one week gap between hearings and vote reflect a Democratic plan to try to soft-pedal their hearing performance and set up Roberts as the unattainable benchmark for the next nominee?)

The prevailing wisdom is that no nomination will come until after the Roberts vote from the committee or even from the full Senate. I questioned this last week and still question it. Roberts is clearly in. A quick announcement puts the next nomination in the context of Roberts and the Committee Democrats' poor performance with him. Any screaming about the new nominee is just going to look like more of the same partisanship. Allowing time to pass may allow the Democrats to make their opposition to the next nominee look principled.


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