WASHINGTON — The so-called “Gang of 14,” a coalition of Democratic and Republican senators who came together to review President Bush’s judicial nominations to avoid filibusters in the upper house, yesterday gave preliminary approval to Harriet Miers’ nomination to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This nomination didn’t set off any alarm bells with any of us,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Hill newspaper.
While the Gang of 14 assembled in response to threats by Democrats to filibuster Bush’s judicial nominees, there is seemingly less opposition to Miers among Democrats than conservative Republicans.
The action by the Gang of 14 is significant in this case because of the impact it may have on marginalizing opposition by Bush’s right flank – including Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Conservative activists have reportedly been pressuring other Republican senators, including Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John Thune, R-S.D., to avoid committing to support for Miers prematurely.
While the approval of the Gang of 14 ensures no filibuster will occur in the Senate, it does not mean individual senators in the group will necessarily vote to approve the nominee.
“I think it’s highly unlikely there would be a filibuster,” Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, told the Hill.
While Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has had high praise for Miers and suggested he is leaning toward backing Miers, he has been under pressure from his left flank to take it slow.
“Let me make clear that I have not endorsed this nomination,” he said Tuesday, after appearing enthusiastic about her nomination a day earlier.
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will vote to approve the nomination.
Conservatives in the media – including columnists George Will, Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter – have leveled devastating criticism of the choice by Bush. Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has also expressed dismay at the selection.
In an interview with ABC News yesterday, Brownback said that if Miers testifies during the Judiciary Committee’s hearings that she views Roe v. Wade as settled law, he would likely vote against her.
On Monday, Thune issued a press release announcing that he would reserve judgment on Miers’ nomination. Likewise, Coburn and Sessions have not made any commitments to supporting Miers. Sessions reportedly told conservative activists yesterday he will take a close look at the Miers’ nomination.