White House: Obama 'regrets' his filibuster of Supreme Court nominee

President Obama “regrets” filibustering the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2006, his top spokesman said Wednesday, though he maintains that the Republican opposition to his effort to replace Justice Antonin Scalia is unprecedented. 

“That is an approach the president regrets,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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Obama and the Democratic senators who joined him in filibustering Alito “should have been in the position where they were making a public case” against the merits of his nomination to the high court instead, Earnest said.

“They shouldn’t have looked for a way to just throw sand in the gears of the process," he added. 

As a senator from Illinois, Obama and 23 other senators attempted to stage a filibuster to block a confirmation vote on Alito, one of former President George W. Bush’s picks to serve on the bench. The filibuster bid failed and Alito was confirmed.

Conservatives have seized on Obama’s filibuster vote to accuse him of hypocrisy for criticizing Republicans for saying the next president, and not Obama, should nominate Scalia’s successor. 

But Earnest said the GOP is going further than Obama did in pledging to not consider any nominee the president puts forward.  

“These are two different things,” the spokesman said.

He argued that the Democrats’ 2006 filibuster of Alito was symbolic because he had the votes to be confirmed. 

And he said Obama’s decision to filibuster was “based on substance” whereas the GOP’s blanket opposition to any Obama nominee is purely political. The president has yet to choose a nominee to replace Scalia. 

Earnest went further than Obama did during a press conference when he was asked about his choice to join the filibuster effort against Alito. 

“I think what’s fair to say is that how judicial nominations have evolved over time is not historically the fault of any single party,” Obama said Tuesday. “This has become just one more extension of politics.”