WASHINGTON — A last-minute compromise resolved a crisis over filibusters in the Senate, but it didn’t shut down partisan fighting over the judges that President Bush has nominated.
Sen. Ken Salazar was one of 14 Democrats and Republicans who engineered the compromise.
“I hope the bipartisan agreement between the 14 senators can become a sort of template for addressing other issues,” Salazar said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
He said he talked to almost every one of the other 13 senators at different times during the negotiations. The senators gathered in the office of Arizona Republican John McCain for many of the talks.
The seven Republicans pledged not to go through with the so-called “nuclear option” of reinterpreting Senate rules to ban filibusters against judicial nominees.
The seven Democrats pledged to use the filibuster only under “extraordinary circumstances,” with each senator making a private decision on what “extraordinary” means.
Salazar elaborated on the word Tuesday, calling the language “a keystone part of the agreement.
“That should tell the world we are not going to accept extremists or ideological judges,” Salazar said. “A judge that brings a partisan ideology or political agenda to the bench is not an appropriate nominee for the bench.”
The Senate opened Tuesday morning with an exchange between Republican leader Bill Frist and Democrat leader Harry Reid, neither of whom signed the compromise agreement.
“Let me be clear, the constitutional option remains on the table,” Frist said, referring to the procedure Democrats call the nuclear option. “I will not hesitate to use it as a last resort.”
But Reid said the nuclear option is gone, and he took a broad view of the compromise agreement’s language.
“All filibusters are extraordinary,” Reid said.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson issued a statement Monday night blasting the compromise as a “betrayal” by the seven Republicans.
“We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November,” Dobson said. “I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust.”
Dobson and Salazar squared off last month after Focus ran anti-filibuster ads targeting Salazar and other senators. The Colorado Springs-based religious organization announced new ads this week urging people to call Salazar and three other senators involved in the compromise negotiations, but a spokesman did not know if they planned to continue with the ads.
Salazar said Tuesday afternoon he had not checked the mail and phone calls coming into his office since the agreement was announced, but he called the compromise a disappointment for “the radical right” and “a win for mainstream America.”
“For us who are here in the U.S. Senate, we ought not to be taking the position that one faith is better than another or one faith is closer to the truth than another,” Salazar said. “I’m a man of faith, and I believe that we need to have our country governed under the doctrines that were established by our founding fathers.”
Senators voted 81-18 Tuesday afternoon to end the filibuster on Priscilla Owen, a Texas judge. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said the Senate is likely to confirm her this morning.