I keep hearing that the Senate Republicans still have one more weapon at their disposal to block Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court even though the Democrats technically have a 60-seat, a Vote:filibuster-proof majority in the full Senate. Why? Because of the following rule on bring a matter to a vote: “The Chairman shall entertain a non-debatable motion to bring a matter before the Committee to a vote. If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a roll call vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority.”
This has been intrepreted to mean that Sotomayor can’t get to the Senate floor without at least one vote from a Judiciary Committee Republican, so the GOP can still block her. Let me say this as clearly as I can: It’s not gonna happen. Not only did Senate Republicans spend the bulk of the Bush administration arguing that judicial filibusters were not only unseemly but also unconstitutional. Not only does Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Gang of 14, sit on the Judiciary Committee. Not only did Sen. Orrin Hatch vote to confirm Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only has Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, disputed the idea that Sotomayor needs a Republican vote to advance to the Senate floor.
The Democrats could attempt to defeat a committee filibuster by filing a discharge petition, effectively bypassing the committee vote and bringing the nomination to the Senate floor. And given the size of the Democrats’ majority, any differences over how to interpret the Judiciary Committee’s rules are likely to be resolved in their favor. The odds are vanishingly small that the Republicans will try a committee filibuster and smaller still that the Democrats would let one succeed.
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