Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republican leaders have decided to begin their use of the "nuclear option" -- forcing confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominations with a majority Senate vote -- on an African-American woman blocked by Democrats from a federal judgeship.
Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court was one of 16 Bush nominees for U.S. appellate courts whose confirmation was prevented by Democratic filibusters in the last Congress. With Republicans still short of the 60 senators needed to limit debate, the nuclear option will seek to confirm judges with a simple majority vote through parliamentary maneuvers.

 Republican leaders considered waiting to use drastic tactics against a possible filibuster until Bush made his first Supreme Court nomination. They decided, however, to launch the offensive about a month from now by trying to confirm Brown.


 Democrats, who now acknowledge the inevitability of Howard Dean's election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, are concerned about the massive negative research about him stockpiled by President Bush's political operatives.

 The Dean file was compiled by Bush's re-election campaign when it appeared that the former Vermont governor was going to be nominated for president. It is a carefully researched compendium of Dean's often bizarre utterances.

 Well-placed Republicans do not deny the file exists but point out they kept quiet about often unsavory business dealings of Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic chairman the last four years.


 While President Bush has energized Republican members of Congress on Social Security, Republican leaders in the House still want the Senate to go first on the politically sensitive issue.

 Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay do not relish their Republican members sustaining the risk of changing Social Security only to see the entire effort killed by a Senate filibuster. The House leaders say they will be able to improve even a watered-down Senate bill if the Senate goes first.

 Both the president and his political adviser, Karl Rove, were effective in promoting Social Security during the recent Republican retreat at the Greenbrier resort. Many rank-and-file GOP members want to move now and pass the president's priority reform without waiting for the Senate.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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