Center for American Progress

Frist’s Hypocritical and Dishonest Attack on Democracy
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Documents obtained by American Progress show Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist participated in an effort to block one of Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees via filibuster, then lied about it.

In recent weeks, Frist has been relentlessly preaching about the evils of judicial filibusters. Speaking to the Federalist Society on November 12, Frist said filibustering judicial nominees is "radical. It is dangerous and it must be overcome." [1] Frist called judicial filibusters "nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority." When Bill Clinton was President, however, Frist engaged in the same behavior he is now condemning.

In 1996 Clinton nominated Judge Richard Paez to the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Conservatives in Congress held up Paez’s nomination for more than four years, culminating in an attempted filibuster on March 8, 2000. Bill Frist was among those who voted to filibuster Paez. [2]

Frist was directly confronted with this vote by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation (11/21/04). Schieffer said "Senator, a group called The American Progress Action Fund sent me a question to ask you. And here’s what it says: ‘Senator Frist, if you oppose the use of the filibuster for judicial nominations, why did you vote to filibuster Judge Richard Paez when President Clinton nominated him to the 9th Circuit?’" [3] Frist replied "Filibuster, cloture, it gets confusing–as a scheduling or to get more information is legitimate. But no to kill nominees."

But American Progress has obtained a document that proves Frist was not, as he suggested, voting to filibuster Paez for scheduling purposes or to get more information. He voted to filibuster Paez for the very reason he said was illegitimate – to block Paez’s nomination indefinitely.

On March 9, 2000, Former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) issued a press release describing the intent of the Paez filibuster vote the day before. The release says Senator Smith "built a coalition of several moderate and conservative Senators in an effort to block" Paez’s nomination. [4] Frist was a part of that coalition. Smith did not organize the filibuster to get more information on Paez (after all his nomination had been pending for four years). He organized the filibuster because he had already decided Paez was "out of the mainstream of political though and…should [not] be on the court" [Click here to read Smith’s press release].


 

 

 

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