With John G. Roberts Jr.'s confirmation as chief justice of the United States all but inevitable, political observers were holding out hope that the bevy of Senate Democrats contemplating a presidential bid in 2008 might add a bit of drama to the proceedings. Would any of the wannabes -- especially front-runner-in-waiting Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) -- break ranks with the party's liberal base and support Roberts?
No such luck.
Of the five Democratic senators mentioned as potential national candidates, only Russell Feingold (Wis.), a long shot in the presidential sweepstakes, plans to vote "yea" on Roberts.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D), a high-profile interrogator of Roberts during the Judiciary Committee hearings, said he will vote no but acknowledged: "This is a very close call." Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) said he could not "in good conscience" support Roberts; Clinton cited her "desire to maintain the already fragile Supreme Court majority for civil rights, voting rights and women's rights" in a statement explaining how she plans to vote. Even Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), from Roberts's home state, came out against confirmation yesterday because "we simply do not know enough about his views on critical issues to make a considered judgment."
Feingold is accustomed to bucking his party's conventional wisdom. He was the lone senator to oppose the USA Patriot Act and the only one of the five potential 2008 presidential candidates to vote against the use-of-force resolution on Iraq. Earlier this summer, Feingold won kudos among liberals when he called for a timeline for U.S. troops to leave the country.
GOP: Don't Let Democrats Steele Data
Moving to capitalize on a bit of controversy swirling around Senate Democrats, the Republican House campaign arm sent a memo to GOP lawmakers yesterday warning them of potential searches of their personal credit information.
"The purpose of this memo is to advise you to closely monitor personal financial information -- including personal credit reports -- in the wake of these disturbing developments," wrote National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Carl Forti and his deputy, Ed Patru.
The developments referred to in the memo concern allegations that two staffers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee obtained the personal credit information of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) -- a potential Senate candidate in 2006 -- while conducting opposition research in July.
Democrats point out that the two staffers implicated were immediately suspended -- and have since resigned -- and the matter was referred to the U.S. attorney's office as soon the committee was made aware of it; Republicans, they argue, are simply trying to score political points.
"Two young people made a mistake that the DSCC reported immediately to the U.S. attorney," said DSCC spokesman Phil Singer. "It's sad and unfortunate that the Republicans are playing politics with this incident."
Patru responds: "We just want to make sure none of our members fall victim to illegal and unethical Democratic tactics."
Partisan point-scoring? Perish the thought.
Senator Moves to Tighten Farm Belt
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is headed to the Hawkeye State on Oct. 8 to headline "Iowa Taxpayers' Day," sponsored by Iowans for Tax Relief. Brownback, a potential GOP 2008 presidential candidate, will share the speaking bill with conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham and Rep. Jim Nussle (Iowa), who is the leading GOP candidate for governor in 2006.
The Kansan has made Iowa, staging ground for the first-in-the nation presidential caucuses, his home away from home of late.
Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.