Debate has begun in the Senate on the nomination of Priscilla Owen. Prior to proceeding, Minority Leader Harry Reid made repeated requests for compromise, which Senator Frist said "would be considered." For all the day's news stories and background on the beginning of the debate, see this post.
You can watch the debate on C-SPAN2 over the Internet here.
Senator Reid is planning a conference call for 11:45 Eastern today that I intend to be a part of; I will report back once I have an update.
[Update: Best line so far, from the Benator via ABC's The Note: "Lining up Senators is like herding cats, only cats are more organized that Senators." -- 10:04 a.m.]
[Update: It's always good to begin an important Senate debate with an out-and-out lie. In his opening statement on the Owen nomination, Bill Frist commented that "all Clinton nominees were treated fairly ... the minority behaved responsibly." Senator Reid responded quickly, reminding the Majority Leader of the 69 Clinton nominees who "never saw the light of day," and were never even granted hearings by the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, let alone made subject to an up-or-down vote.
Senator Specter is speaking now, and has blamed both sides for the intensity of this situation and continues his call for compromise. -- 11:01 a.m.]
[Update: Senator Leahy offers up a fiery speech in opposition to the nuclear option, arguing strongly for the preservation of the filibuster and the continued role of the Senate as an institution which protects the rights of the minority. -- 11:33 a.m.]
[Update: I've just gotten off a conference call with Harry Reid, who began by saying "I've tried everything that I can do ... this White House and the Republican leadership in Congress are arrogant", want a 100% success rate, and are "willing to go to all ends" to get there. Once or twice he used the phrase "drunk with power" to describe Frist & Co.
Reid said that the showdown vote on the nuclear option "will probably come next Tuesday - possibly Wednesday, but probably Tuesday."
Asked by a caller why changing the rules would be so bad if the Democrats could put it to use someday, Reid replied "You don't change the rules in the middle of a ballgame," adding "I just don't think this is right - it's the wrong thing to do no matter who's in power."
Reid pleaded with moderate Republicans to vote against the nuclear option, and said that he's had word that lobbyists have been calling moderates "telling them they'll never again get support" from various groups if they oppose the leadership. "They punish people for voting their conscience," Reid said. "And the sad part is, they will do it." "We need six senators to vote with us and break the trend toward travesty," Reid concluded. -- 12:09 p.m.]
[Update: Debate continues. I missed a couple of speakers, but caught most of a speech by New York's Chuck Schumer. Best line: "The Senate has passed 95% of President Bush's judicial nominees. Now, if your child came home from school and said they got a 95% on their test, would you pat them on the head and say 'good job'? Or would you tell them to cheat and break the rules until they reached 100%?" Feinstein's speaking now. -- 1:19 p.m.]
[Update: The New York Times has this story on the first couple hours of the debate. The Washington Post offers this. Senator Feinstein's speech continues; she's discussing the "pocket filibusters" of Clinton nominees by Republicans prior to 2000. -- 1:35 p.m.]
[Update: Feinstein has concluded and the next hour will be controlled by Republicans (apparently they've settled on alternating hour-long segments). Alabama's Jeff Sessions is up now, bewailing the "activism" of federal judges. It's pretty amusing how, with this debate ostensibly centered specifically around Priscilla Owen's confirmation, neither Republicans or Democrats are talking about her record. Not surprising ... just amusing. -- 1:55 p.m.]
[Update: Think Progess has this on a telling exchange between Frist and Schumer on the floor earlier. I had intended to discuss this later on, but TP did better with it than I would have, so I'll offer it now. Sessions continues to talk. -- 2:06 p.m.]
[Update: Kansas' Sam Brownback has now begun a floor statement, outlining how "the left has to go through the courts" to advance its agenda. "Where does this stop if we don't stop putting up judges who are judges and not super-legislators? Where does this stop?" -- 2:24 p.m.]
[Update: Brownback is now basically reading the resume of Janice Rogers Brown. I thought this was Priscilla Owen day ... -- 2:42 p.m.]
[Update: Democrat Byron Dorgan (ND) is up now. He began by quoting former New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own set of facts." Republicans, Dorgan said, are talking "fiction" when they say no judicial nominees have never been blocked in the past. "Their nose is all bent out of shape because they haven't gotten every single judge that they want to put on the bench." Taking on some specifics, Dorgan offers point-by-point criticisms of Janice Rogers Brown on zoning laws ("she thinks zoning laws are a theft of property"), etc. Why aren't we talking about real issues, he asks? Jobs, energy, price of gas, and so on. "And yet is there any discussion of that on the floor of the Senate? No, no, not at all." -- 2:55 p.m.]
[Update: More from Dorgan's excellent statement: "America's greatest mistakes are often wrapped in the zeal of excessive partisanship, and that's what's happening now." -- 3:04 p.m.]
[Update: Ted Kennedy's turn. Discussing nominee William Pryor's opposition to the Voting Rights Act, "There's too much at stake." -- 3:13 p.m.]
[Update: Kennedy moved on to a discussion of Priscilla Owen, offering some of the more substantive arguments against her; he's now talking about the "radical step" that the nuclear option represents and the specific provisions of the Senate rules that would be 'broken' in order to go nuclear. -- 3:26 p.m.]
[Update: Montana's Max Baucus now, making the point that all need to recognize how often the Senate has changed control in the last few decades. This is a speech focused directly at those Republicans making the McCain argument, that the long-term consequences must be considered. "I urge my colleages to remember, that this Senate majority too will pass away," Baucus reminds. Quorum call; whew, time to catch my breath for a few moments!-- 3:39 p.m.]
[Update: The Senate has recessed until 4:45 p.m. so that its members can attend a briefing with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. C-SPAN2 says that those senators seeking a compromise "continue to meet behind closed doors." -- 3:45 p.m.]
[Update: Howard Fineman has added this analysis of the nuclear option debate. -- 4:02 p.m.]
[Update: I've begun a new post here on the second round of debate which began at 4:45 p.m.]