Specter Taps Pro-Nuke Counsel

Posted March 2, 2005 at 6:07pm

While Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter’s views on the “nuclear option” remain unclear, the Pennsylvania Republican has hired the co-author of a controversial article considered the definitive step-by-step way to destroy judicial filibusters.

Dimple Gupta, who co-wrote with former GOP aide Marty Gold a law article calling for an end to filibusters, will join Specter’s Judiciary staff March 14, according to sources familiar with the hiring. Gupta is expected to work in the committee’s judicial nominations unit.

Some conservatives have been angered by Specter’s recent remarks regarding the parliamentary move to abolish Democratic filibusters, known as the nuclear option, as well as the credentials of some of the new chairman’s staffers. Gupta, however, comes to the committee with her conservative bona fides intact. A former member of Harvard Law’s Federalist Society, she currently serves as counsel to the assistant attorney general in the criminal division.

Before going to the Justice Department, she was an associate for several years at Covington and Burling, where she worked with Gold on the article, subtitled “A Majoritarian Means to Over Come the Filibuster,” for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

The 68-page article relies heavily on the words and deeds of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) during his tenure as Majority Leader in the 1970s, when he twice threatened to use a unilateral, bare-majority tactic to change the chamber’s rules. (However, as the Gold-Gupta article notes, while there have been four different rule changes that were adopted after the threat of a “nuclear option,” never before has one side actually pushed the button and unilaterally changed the rules.)

Byrd has taken the law review article as a personal affront, delivering a blistering floor speech — even by Byrd’s standards — in which he recounted how even Adolf Hitler had to get a two-thirds vote in the German parliament in the 1930s to change some rules. (See Verbatim, p. 4.)

Along with several other GOP outlets, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pounced on Byrd’s remarks in a release that was simply titled “Robert Byrd Flies Off the Deep End.”

In November, after fighting off a challenge by conservative activists to his ascension to chairman, Specter signaled that he believed there were sufficient “precedents to secure rule changes with 51 votes.”

However, last week, Specter signaled that he doesn’t want Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to push the nuclear option, saying it would leave the Senate “in bedlam” and the Judiciary Committee “in hell.”