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Now, More Than Ever

What someone in the GOP Senate caucus needs to tell Republicans about the filibuster vote.

9:30 AM, Apr 26, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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A SPEECH I HOPE a Republican senator from the classes of 2002 or 2004 makes at the next gathering of the GOP Senate caucus:

Thank you, Leader Frist, for giving me the floor. I realize it isn't usual for members here less than three years to make long speeches, but there are a number of us who have a unique, and I think valuable, perspective on the issue of the president's judicial nominees. Look around the room and you will see a lot heads nodding, I think, as I run down these points. Those of us who fought and won races over the 2002 and 2004 cycles--in places as different as Florida and Minnesota, Texas and South Dakota, Missouri and South Carolina--we have all been down that familiar road of a two-year campaign. John Thune's actually been down a four year road. But we have all--every one of us--appeared in literally thousands of living rooms and board rooms, hotel lobbies and open air rallies. We have been out there asking for the $10 donation and the $2,000 donation. All of us, every one of us, have been helped into office by George W. Bush. We have all done interview after interview, have appeared on a thousand radio talk shows and sent a million pieces of mail.

In short, we know something that a lot of you might not know, especially those members gearing up for the 2006 elections. Or at least we know it in a real, first-person way, whereas those of you who haven't been part of the last two cycles only know it in a theoretical way.

That something is that the judges really matter. They really, really matter.

This is something you have to hear, and hear in a way that maybe you haven't before because you either haven't been out there since the issue arose or because you had a comfortable reelection campaign. Because I don't know all of you very well, please allow me to address you as senator today, but please know I am saying this as a friend.

Senators, the issue of judges matters more than you can imagine. More than it has probably ever mattered in the 217 years of our country's political history. So much does it matter, Senators Snowe and Chafee--and I say this as a friend--that if we refuse or lose this battle, I think you will lose your seats. Please understand that I am not trying to threaten members of the body who have been here longer than I have, I am just trying to tell you what it is like out there in the states, where our party gathers momentum and ideas and votes and yes, contributions.

Nothing except the defense of this country matters more than judges. That's what our party's millions of members believe, and that's what is the background for our talks today.

I want to early on in my remarks to thank Senator Voinovich. Senator, you may not have intended to do so, but with your comments in the Foreign Relations Committee last week, you opened the door. After you said you needed time to think about the Bolton nomination, well, every network couldn't rush an expert out quick enough to praise you for your integrity. Over at CNN I thought Bill Schneider was going to canonize you. Senator Chafee also was on a lot of broadcasts saluting your willingness to rethink your position. Others made the same point that it takes courage to change your mind in D.C.

I thought then, and I emphasize now, senators can change their mind on big issues, especially when it is because you have thought long and hard on the subject. I am hoping Senators Chafee and McCain, who have announced their intention to vote with the Democrats on the issue of the filibuster, that they use the opportunity that Senator Voinovich has given them to rethink their position and rejoin the caucus. I think it is much more important than saving Senator Chafee's seat, though I am fairly certain he will lose it if we lose this vote. It is more important than Senator Snowe's seat, though I think we will lose that one as well if we lose this vote.

I think we could lose the Senate majority in 2006 if we lose this vote on ending the filibuster. It is that crucial. It is that significant. Let me tell you why I think this way.

Like I said, I appeared at thousands of gatherings over the nearly two years of my campaign. Nothing special there. We have all done it, and we all know it is necessary. And on top of that the phone calls and the interviews. No complaints, just part of the job.

Those of us who have been out on the trail in a contested race, sometimes an uphill race, and who have succeeded in the past three years, know there are two issues on the minds of Republicans and a lot of independents: Will you support the president and will you get the judges confirmed.

It is that simple. Over and over again. Will you support the president and will you get the judges confirmed?