McConnell Won’t Rule Out Filibuster on Court Pick

Posted May 17, 2009 at 9:30am

Updated: 11:45 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday refused to rule out a Republican filibuster of President Barack Obama’s anticipated Supreme Court nominee.

“Under the rules of the Senate, all things are possible,— McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.—

McConnell backed off from comments he made in 2005 and 2006 when Senate Democrats were filibustering a handful of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations and then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) threatened to use the “nuclear option— to eliminate the minority’s ability to filibuster judges.

“The Senate rejected my advice,— McConnell said of his previous support for the nuclear option. “The Senate deliberately decided not to take a position one way or the other.—

Still, McConnell indicated that Republicans have not yet decided whether to mount a united front against any Obama nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter, given that the GOP’s reaction will depend on whom the president selects.

“It’s way too premature … to be predicting what kind of procedural maneuvers will be employed,— McConnell said.

Just last week, Senate Republicans successfully blocked an Obama Interior Department nominee, despite lacking the 41 votes traditionally needed to do so. Under rules governing filibusters, 60 votes are needed to overcome a blockade. However, Democrats currently only have 59 caucus Members. They are hoping the long legal battle over Minnesota’s Senate seat will be resolved before any Supreme Court nominee reaches a floor vote.

In the Minnesota race, Democrat Al Franken holds a narrow lead over former Sen. Norm Coleman (R), but the case has been held up over a recount dispute. The Minnesota State Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in June.

Speaking of Obama’s anticipated Supreme Court pick, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, interviewed Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,— was harshly critical of Obama’s recent statement that he would try to nominate someone who would have empathy for the people who are caught up in the judicial system.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, appearing on the same program, quickly pounced.

“The party of no becomes the party of no on empathy,— he said, almost gleefully.

Steele attempted to explain. “The party of no is no to judges that are going to come up with feel-good legislation,— he said.

“If you guys are against empathy, then you stand on that platform,— Kaine shot back.