White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday that President Obama regretted voting in support of a filibuster against Samuel Alito when he was a Senator. This comes as President Obama is looking for Republican support for his eventual Supreme Court nominee. Republicans and Democrats have gone back and forth on the issue and Republicans have pointed out that numerous Democrats, many of whom are in party leadership today, called for some of the same tactics during the Bush Administration.
“What the president regrets is that Senate Democrats didn’t focus more on making an effective public case about those substantive objections,” Earnest said. “Instead, some Democrats engaged in a process of throwing sand in the gears of the confirmation process. And that’s an approach that the president regrets.” Earnest called the filibuster against Alito a “symbolic move.” Party leadership will often allow a number of legislators to symbolically vote against a bill or nominee to show opposition while allowing the measure to succeed.
However, Earnest cautioned that he does not think the filibuster is equivalent to outright refusing to consider a nominee, “There is a difference between the president’s symbolic vote against President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee and Republicans’ reflexive opposition to the idea of President Obama even nominating anybody to the Supreme Court.”
Then-Senator Obama joined with twenty-four other Senators to filibuster Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination. Obama opposed with Alito over decisions the judge made on lower courts and told ABC News that Alito “is contrary to core American values.”
Critics are claiming that the President is merely opposing Supreme Court filibusters because he is now looking to get a nominee approved. However, Obama did lament the use of parliamentary tactics when Sonia Sotomayor was being nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009. President Obama has made talking about partisanship a key element of speeches recently and has given both parties the blame.
Over the past few days, there has been reason for hope for President Obama that he may be able to get a nominee confirmed. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would be open to confirmation hearings on a candidate and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) said that President Obama should nominate someone for the position.