Sen. Ken Salazar is the big topic of discussion in politics today after announcing yesterday that he would support John Roberts in his bid to become the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeralyn wasn’t pleased with Salazar’s decision, and Jim Spencer of the Denver Post takes him to task for faulty logic behind his support.
Me? I’m not sure the alternative made that much sense, either.
Any vote against Roberts was going to be purely symbolic, since there is really no chance that he won’t pass through the Senate with the required votes. There is certainly something to be said for symbolism, but Salazar seems to be trying to position himself to take on the next Supreme Court nominee instead. If that’s the case, then backing Roberts allows Salazar to say to the Republican leadership, “I went with you on Roberts, but now I want to be heard on the next nominee.”
Symbolism aside, there’s not much point in fighting Roberts because even if you theoretically stopped the nomination, the next nominee is going to be just like him. Salazar could vote against Roberts because of fears that he is pro-life, for example, and if that worked, what comes next? Another pro-life nominee. Democrats don’t have the votes in the Senate to be able to decide what they want out of a Supreme Court nominee, so they need to decide what they can and cannot live without.
The true test in all of this will be to see what Salazar does with the next nominee. Salazar was hit with 8,000 petitions from the pro-choice group NARAL over Roberts, and he’ll need their help to get re-elected in 2010. He turned his back on their pleas over Roberts, but if he does the same thing over the next nominee, he’ll have a lot of powerful, angry people to deal with.
People want to see their politicians take a stand on heartstring issues, but most politicians can’t do that all the time. Salazar was elected in a state that is not overwhelmingly Democratic, and he wouldn’t be in office without the support of a lot of Independent voters. He knows that, and so does his staff. His support of Roberts may be the politically prudent thing to do; what he does next will say a whole lot more.