WASHINGTON -- If Manuel Miranda is really becoming the leader of the conservative opposition to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, this summer might be more fun for the White House than the administration anticipated.
The former aide to Bill Frist -- who was forced out of his job, and investigated by Senate officials, for hacking into Democratic staffers' e-mail accounts five years ago -- is now trying to organize a pressure campaign by conservatives to push Republican senators to filibuster the nomination. That would be entertaining enough, since Miranda spent most of 2005 insisting that Senate Republicans had to force through rule changes that would make it impossible to filibuster judicial nominees. He's also decided to pick up on some of the less credible criticism of Sotomayor out there, telling the Washington Independent's David Weigel that the judge's temper might end her nomination.
"She has a temper," Miranda said this afternoon after a Heritage Foundation event. "She has an attitude. She could come across as hubristic in the hearings, as arrogant. And so she could Bork herself."
But Miranda has also decided to pick a fight with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, the man who took over from his old boss when Frist retired. In an interview with Politico, Miranda called McConnell "limp-wristed" and said he should consider resigning.
That doesn't seem to have the GOP as frightened as Miranda may have hoped. In the Capitol earlier this afternoon, I asked an aide to a senior Senate Republican whether GOP leaders were ready for the full Miranda treatment. The aide actually doubled over laughing, before going on to say -- more seriously -- that the early, over-the-top opposition to Sotomayor from some conservatives probably didn't help their cause.
Still, the pressure from the right may still have an effect on the timing, if not the result, of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. Senate Republicans made clear today they were in no hurry to move the process along.
"We have a good advantage in that Justice Souter's resignation doesn't take effect until October 5th, when the term ends," said Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "And so we are -- we do have -- we don't have a vacancy right now. And I do think that gives us the ability to take our time and do it right. I'm not prepared to say that we can get it done before August."
Democrats indicated they were willing to play along with GOP demands for time to scrutinize her record -- to an extent. After meeting with Sotomayor, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committe chairman, told reporters he wouldn't try to schedule hearings until July, at least. But he said the attacks against the nominee wouldn't slow things down.
"I'll tell you one thing that will motivate me to go sooner, rather than later," Leahy said. "When you have vicious attacks by leading Republicans call her the equivalent of the head of the Ku Klux Klan, and call her a bigot, totally false and outrageous charges, and there's only one place she can answer those charges would be in a hearing, we want her to have a chance to answer those charges."