Senate charade

November 14, 2003

AH, THE COTS paraded through the Capitol, the exhaustion-cracked voices, the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington self-righteousness. It was the Republicans' all-nighter protest of Democrats blocking judicial nominees; it might have been more credible, though, if they forced Democrats to do the talking.

When senators want to break a filibuster, they make the filibusterers talk till they drop. That's what happened to Jimmy Stewart in the movie, a copy of which was carried around for inspiration by an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

But during this round-the-clocker, Democrats had to beg to get a word in edgewise as Republicans staged a taxpayer-financed appeal to the GOP's conservative base.

Granted, it's very hard to defeat a determined minority in excess of 45 senators, who can spell each other indefinitely. But the extra time and money spent on this Republican charade -- including an estimated $70,000 in overtime pay for Capitol police -- would be easier to defend if the Republicans had at least tried to overcome Democratic obstructionists.

President Bush, flanked by three of the six disputed judicial candidates, charged, "Senators who are playing politics with the nominations are acting shamefully." That could be his own guys.

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