Sen. Graham warns of radical judges after filibuster change


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Sen. Lindsey Graham warned his colleagues Wednesday that last month’s change in Senate filibuster rules will produce more radical judges beholden to liberal or conservative ideology instead of the law.

Graham sharply criticized Senate Democrats’ elimination of the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster in a bid to confirm judicial and executive nominees of President Barack Obama that Republicans had blocked.

“You’re going to have more ideologically driven (executive) picks and judicial nominations because the filtering device of having to at least talk to the other side” is minimized, Graham said.

“You’re going to find that the judicial selections in the future are going to be the ones that the people who are the most rabid partisans are going to pick – the most faithful to the cause, not the most faithful to the law,” he said.

The Senate, where Democrats currently hold 53 seats, voted Nov. 21 along party lines to require only a simple-majority threshold for presidential nominations to fill executive branch posts and judgeships except for the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats said they were compelled to make the change because Republicans had blocked a record number of nominees by Obama.

Graham took to the Senate floor as Republicans launched what they said would be an overnight “talkathon” to protest the rules change, which now require a simple majority to end a filibuster.

“The pressure in (each party’s Senate) conference to pick the most ideologically pure, hardnosed, fire-breathing liberal or conservative is going to be immense,” Graham said.

Appearing to address his Democratic counterparts, Graham added: “You’ve changed the face of the judiciary probably forever, and shame on you.”

Graham recalled that he was part of the bipartisan “Gang of 14” senators who in 2005 prevented Republicans, who then controlled the Senate, from moving to a simple majority in order to confirm judicial nominees of President George W. Bush that Democrats had blocked.

"When this happened on our (GOP) watch, I tried to find a way to avoid it, but we are where we are,” Graham said.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, earlier in the week had scheduled floor debate on 10 judicial and executive nominees of Obama.

The two parties normally don’t use the full amount of time allotted to them for debate under Senate rules, but Republicans said they would discuss the Obama nominees as long as possible to protest the Democrats’ filibuster change.

Reid responded Wednesday by saying he was prepared to keep the Senate in continuous session around the clock until Saturday if necessary to move Obama’s picks.

Graham predicted that the exceptions for Supreme Court nominees and for legislation, under which 60 votes are still needed to break a filibuster, will eventually give way to partisan fervor.

The South Carolina Republican, who faces four GOP primary challengers in his re-election bid next year, said the Democrats’ filibuster change runs counter to the constitutional founders’ intent that the Senate be a more deliberative body than the House.

“The Senate is slowly but surely becoming (like) the House, where winner takes all and ends justify the means,” Graham said.

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