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April 13th, 2005 Pete Hunt | News Stories
 

What Would Bob Do?

     
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Former Republican Sen. Bob Packwood has a word of advice for Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith and his fellow GOP-ers running the U.S. Senate.

If they're thinking about changing the tried-and-true procedure that allows senators to "filibuster"-legislative-speak for "block''-the nominations of judicial candidates, don't.

"I would be hesitant to change the rule,'' Packwood says.

When Packwood represented Oregon in the Senate from 1969 until his resignation in 1995-most of those years when Republicans were in the minority party-he used the filibuster to block pro-life legislation.

But now Republicans are frustrated with Democrats' turning the tables and using the filibuster to delay judicial nominees they accuse of holding extreme conservative views.

Smith hasn't taken a position on joining Republican colleagues trying to kill the strategy option that allows 41 members to prevent a nomination from coming to a vote.

A change would require a majority of the Senate, which has 55 Republicans. But not every Republican is on board. And the progressive People for the American Way is airing a TV commercial using footage from Frank Capra's 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with Jimmy Stewart, urging Smith and other undecided Republicans to preserve the filibuster.

Packwood does say the Democrats should let the judicial nominees come up for votes and to use the filibuster more sparingly.

"The filibuster was designed to give lawmakers time to speak to the public and express their opinions," Packwood says. "Now it's just one more parliamentary tool of delay."

 
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