Graham to File Suit Challenging Filibuster; Senate in All Night

Posted November 13, 2003 at 6:58pm

With the Senate set to stay in session debating the judicial confirmation process until 9 a.m. Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Thursday that he and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are filing a lawsuit against the Senate in an attempt to force the Supreme Court to overrule the use of a filibuster to block a president’s judicial nominations.

“I’m going to take this to court,” Graham said at a 6 p.m. press conference with Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who, along with Graham, will control an extra nine hours of debate on the nomination process from midnight to 9 a.m.

Graham and Chambliss had been considering the lawsuit option since late in the spring, but had been counseled by many constitutional lawyers that the courts would be loath to take up such a political issue that many consider an internal matter for one of the legislative bodies.

But Graham said some lawyers have encouraged him to take up the case, of which he and Chambliss expect to hammer out the final details over the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season. The actual suit is expected to be a direct appeal early next year to the Supreme Court, which could reject the case outright, refer it to one of the lower federal courts or take up the case.

Graham and Chambliss made the final decision to file suit Thursday afternoon, Graham said, after listening to the first 24 hours of the marathon debate. “We have crossed the Rubicon of doing it,” he said, alleging that as a Senator he has legal standing to file the suit because he’s “being denied as a Senator a constitutional opportunity to vote on nominees.”

The Senators have yet to get a ruling from the Ethics Committee in terms of how they could pay for the legal team that would be required to handle the case, and are not even sure if they could set up a legal fund to raise money for the cause.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.), who attended the press conference with Graham and Coleman, said the leadership had not taken any position on the lawsuit because it was the first he had heard that it was definitely going to happen. But Santorum said the leadership was fully behind the freshmen duo’s desire to keep the chamber open a second straight night under the same executive session rules that have governed the debate so far, meaning the Democrats will have to field at least one Senator to block any requests for unanimous consent to move to a vote on controversial nominees.

“We will be in for as long as Senator Coleman and Senator Graham want to talk,” Santorum said.

Santorum said he would join the Senators if they are still talking at “3 or 4 in the morning.”

“If Senator Graham and Senator Coleman are still going strong … I will join them later in the morning,” he added.

Democrats vowed to keep Senators on the floor to ensure that Republicans do not try to move from Morning Business back to executive session to quickly pass the judges.

“We will have at least one Senator on the floor at all times,” said Ranit Schmelzer, Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) spokeswoman. “Just like last night.”

“We’ll give every last bit of energy,” Coleman vowed.