Thursday, April 21, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: GIGGING LIEBERMAN

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 21, 2005


Gov. Bill Richardson had some fun at the expense of fellow Democrat Joe Lieberman in a speech to The Associated Press in San Francisco Monday.

"Did you see that kiss that the president gave Lieberman after the State of the Union?" Richardson asked. "Turns out that was the farthest Lieberman has ever gotten with a goy."

Though he used to get rather defensive with the New Mexico press about his habit making his state police drivers go way over the speed limit, in front of a national press audience, Richardson he made a joke out of a well-publicized 2003 incident.

"Sen. Lieberman got me in trouble too," Richardson said. "You may have read in The Washington Post ... that I was seen driving 100 mph going to one of Sen. Lieberman's fund raisers. I was just trying to get there while Lieberman was still a Democrat."

Emulating Gary: Richardson is still a Democrat, but lately he seems to be taking on some traits of a Republican - namely his predecessor, Gary Johnson.
Earlier this year Richardson was honored by the conservative/libertarian think tank, The Cato Institute, who named Richardson the most fiscally responsible Democratic governor in the U.S. The Cato folks used to be wild for Johnson.

And on Tuesday, the gov's office announced that the nation's most fiscally responsible Democratic governor is having lunch Friday with magazine publisher Steve Forbes -- who was Gary Johnson's candidate for president in 2000."

Forbes is trying to get state business leaders to sponsor a special economic development supplement in upcoming issues of Forbes Magazine and Forbes International Magazine.

Filibuster follies: One of the most partisan sore spots in Congress these days is the possibility that Senate Republicans -- frustrated with Democrats blocking some of President Bush's candidates for federal judgeships -- might seek to end the right of senators to filibuster judicial nominees.

Democrats, who are the minority party in the Senate, vehemently oppose this threatened change, which has been dubbed "the nuclear option."

New Mexico senators are divided on the issue. Democrat Jeff Bingaman is against doing away with the judicial filibuster, while Republican Pete Domenici has been convinced that the "nuclear option" might be necessary.

But Republicans point out that 10 years ago the filibuster shoes were on the other feet.

In 1995, Bingaman was one of 19 senators to support a proposal that would have limited filibusters.

At that time, all Republicans in the Senate, including Domenici, voted against the rule change.

So why have our senators done an apparent do si do on the filibuster issue?

Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Bingaman, said Wednesday that the measure her boss voted for is different than the measure sponsored a decade ago by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut.

The Harkin-Lieberman amendment "would have closed debate on progressively lower thresholds starting with three-fifths and gradually reducing the votes needed to a simple majority," McCartin said.

Under that proposal, a senator could still hold up legislation or a nomination by 57 days, she said.

"The Harkin proposal was in response to general legislative gridlock," McCartin said, noting that the Dems were the minority party in the Senate back then too.

She said in that particular Congressional session, "there had been twice as many filibusters as there were from 1789 to 1960. We do not have that kind of general gridlock. About 95 percent of Bush's judicial nominees have been confirmed and the federal courts now have the lowest vacancy level since the Reagan administration."

But Republicans say that doing away with judicial filibusters has become necessary because, they say, Democrats have abused the system in holding up some Bush choices.

"Sen. Domenici, being a member of the minority party for much of his career has a good understanding of guarding against trampling the rights of minority party members," said Domenici spokesman Matt Letourneau.

But, he said, judicial filibusters "have not been part of the process." Until the George W. Bush administration, he said, the last time a judicial nominee was filibustered was in the late 1960s, when Republicans successfully opposed President Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It took him a long time to get to where he'd go along with the nuclear option," Letourneau said. "Even today Sen. Domenici would like to see a resolution of this problem without having to resort to that."

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