For some it was an issue of backbone. After allowing the Republicans to repeatedly maneuver and disarm them on issues for so long, there was a public outcry for the Democrats to filibuster the nomination. I recently wrote about this.
For others, the threat of extensive executive power (that Alito supports) was unconstitutional. They called upon Senators to honor their oath of protecting and defending the Constitution by fighting this nomination any way that they could.
Amazingly once again it was the world of internet that made it happen. After the hearings Democrats gave up and announced there would not be a filibuster. The chance of it changing or stopping the appointment were overwhelming, the sentiment was not to waste time on a losing issue. That it would look bad.
The point of filibuster is to give the minority party a voice. The idea was to show that they still have supporters, to demonstrate that they still had strength, vigor and power, and enough courage to take a stand against the odds.
Senatorial offices were flooded with phone calls, e-mails and faxes demanding that they do something. Show opposition for history if nothing else.
Finally Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy led a drive among their colleagues to filibuster. The Republican majority responded by scheduling a cloture vote (if sixty senators vote for cloture--all debate, all filibuster is stopped).
Pundits in the media, members of the executive branch and Senate Republicans cried foul. They accused Kennedy and Kerry of playing politics, insulting the President and wasting everyone’s time. Throwing history out the window they acted as if this had never happened in the history of the U. S. Senate.
They held firm, and as the weekend passed enlisted more Senators to join them. The first issue was to vote ‘no’ on cloture. In order for it to pass the Republicans would need for all of their Senators to vote ‘yes’, as well as several Democrats. Much was played out in the media, and citizens swamped the offices of their Senators with their opinions. Some pushed their leaders to allow Alito’s confirmation.
When Monday arrived the Senators met to vote on keeping the debate alive. Here are a few things that were said:
Senator Ted Kennedy
“Let me just say this vote this afternoon will last for 15 or 20 minutes. But the implications of that vote, the implications for your life, your children's lives and your grandchildren's lives, will continue for years to come. We have only one chance to get it right."
Senator John Kerry
“The direction our country will take for the next 30 years is being set now and this is the time for debate. This is the time when it counts. Not after the Supreme Court has granted the executive the right to use torture, or to eavesdrop without warrants. Not after a woman's right to privacy has taken away. Is history going to care what we say after the courthouse door is slammed in the faces of women, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor? No. Except to wonder why we didn't do more when we knew what was coming.”
Senator Patrick Leahy
“Democratic Senators should not be criticized for taking seriously their constitutional role in trying to assess whether Judge Alito is suitable for a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. Democrats also asked tough questions of Justices Ginsburg and Breyer during their confirmation hearings, which is in stark contrast to the free pass given to Judge Alito by Republican Senators during his hearing.
Those critical of the Democrats have a short and selective historical memory. Republican Senators engaged in a party-line vote in committee against the nomination of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. Republican Senators, in an unprecedented party-line vote, blocked the nomination in 1999 of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White, an extremely qualified nominee for a Federal district court judgeship. In fact, Republicans pocket-filibustered more than 60 of President Clinton's judicial nominees by holding them up in the Judiciary Committee.”
Twenty-five Democratic Senators voted against cloture, against stopping the debate on the issue. Cloture was passed by a vote of 72 to 25, with 3 not voting.
Bayh (D-IN) Biden (D-DE) Boxer (D-CA)
Clinton (D-NY) Dayton (D-MN) Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL) Feingold (D-WI) Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ) Mikulski (D-MD) Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL) Reed (D-RI) Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD) Schumer (D-NY) Stabenow (D-MI)
Those who couldn't even hold the line to help support the opposition party's quest to regain their voice, over as something as simple as voting to continue to debate on the appointment of a lifelong tenure have joined the Cowardly Lion Club.
Democrats without backbone:
Akaka, Daniel K (HI) Baucus, Max (MT) Bingaman, Jeff (NM)
Byrd, Robert C.(WV) Cantwell, Maria (WA) Carper, Thomas R.(DE)
Conrad (ND) Dorgan, Byron L. (ND) Inouye,Daniel K.(HI)
Johnson, Tim (SD) Kohl, Herb- (WI) Landrieu, Mary (LA)
Lieberman, Joseph(CT) Lincoln, Blanche(AR) Nelson, E. Benjamin(NE)
Nelson, Bill Pryor, Mark (AR) Rockefeller, John D.(WV)
Salazar, Ken (CO)