By David Ingram
Sen. Arlen Specter is playing down the possibility of a filibuster against David Ogden, the nominee for deputy attorney general.
"You're asking me questions beyond the scope of my authority or knowledge," Specter told reporters after today's meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) raised the possibility of a Republican filibuster at the start of the meeting. "I am very disappointed," he said, that Ogden's nomination "is being held up and filibustered by Senate Republicans." Leahy did not say how he knew about the supposed filibuster, and his staff did not clarify why Leahy brought up the possibility.
If Republicans were planning a filibuster, they have not made it public. The Senate has been occupied with approving a budget for the rest of the fiscal year. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Leahy's comments were the first he'd heard of a filibuster.
Specter, who voted for Ogden in committee along with two other Republicans, said he knew nothing about a filibuster. He doubted it would succeed, and with 58 Democrats in the Senate to join with at least three GOP votes for Ogden, there would appear to be enough votes to end debate.
Under Senate rules, even a single senator can hold the floor and delay a vote, but the time is limited to 30 hours if 60 senators vote to end debate.
Ogden, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, has faced opposition from social conservatives because of his clients, including the pornography industry. Turning aside those concerns, the Judiciary Committee endorsed him 14-5 last week.
"If senators want to speak against or vote against Mr. Ogden's nomination, that is their right," Leahy said. "But I hope that senators would reject the false and scurrilous attacks that have been made against Mr. Ogden."
UPDATE (12:19 p.m.): Leahy was not suggesting that Democrats do not have enough votes to end debate on Ogden's nomination, only that Republicans are making Democrats jump through some extra hoops to get to a vote on the nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to file a motion to end debate, with a vote expected early next week.
Leahy's staff clarified that he used the word "filibuster" in a general sense, to mean that he thinks Republicans are obstructing the nomination. "A filibuster is any action that blocks or delays action on a matter," spokeswoman Erica Chabot writes in an e-mail.