WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
The passionate debates in the Terri Schiavo case have added to the controversy over the Democrats’ use of Senate filibusters to block some of the president’s judicial nominees, as we just heard Bill discussing. A little earlier today I did speak with Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia about that issue. But first, I asked him about GOP claims that a major fund-raiser on his behalf by the left-leaning group moveon.org means he’s too liberal for West Virginia voters.
BYRD: I have one word, one word for that. Horseradish.
That organization is made up of Democrats and Republicans, West Virginians, veterans, farmers, teachers, people from all walks of life. It’s a patriotic organization. It believes in having its say, saying what it thinks. And I’m proud to have the support of that organization.
WOODRUFF: Well, the Republicans say it is out and out a liberal organization and that your association with it means you’re in the same suit.
BYRD: You know, I’m just sick up to my ears concerning all this talk about labels. When I came to the Senate, I was to the right of Senator Goldwater. How about that? Now they say I’m a liberal.
Who cares? I vote the way I see an issue. And the labels just don’t count. There’s too much — too much talk about labels.
They’re not important. They’re not real. And we ought to get beyond that.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you this, there are Democrats on the more moderate end who say that the vocal, the most vocal elements of the party are the liberal groups like MoveOn, and they say it’s not good for the party. Is that something you’re concerned with?
BYRD: You know, I pay no attention to the talk about labels. What I’m concerned about is the liberties of the people of this country. The liberty to speak out, to say what they think, and not be intimidated. That’s one thing that’s happening in this political atmosphere these days.
And I have to say there’s too much of the effort to intimidate. There’s an effort to intimidate those who speak out, who are critical of the administration, who are critical of the president.
They try to intimidate, intimidate the media. That’s a good one. They’ve got you intimidated.
Intimidate senators who have the backbone to stand up for the rights of the people they represent, they try to intimidate. They try to — now they’re trying to intimidate the courts. Back off.
WOODRUFF: Well, I certainly don’t believe they have me intimidated or my news organization intimidated.
BYRD: I don’t think so. But look back at debate on the war.
Where was it? The Senate was mute. The media didn’t ask questions, and the people didn’t ask questions. We were mute.
People were intimidated. That’s the effort now, is to intimidate anybody who has this common sense, and the courage and a strong feeling of what’s right and what’s wrong, trying to intimidate them. They’re trying to do that to me.
WOODRUFF: Well, when it comes to speaking out, let me ask you about this. You know the Republicans in the Senate are talking about changing the filibuster rules.
WOODRUFF: You’ve said you’re against that. The Republicans say that’s hypocritical, because they say, for example, back in 1977 not once, but they say four different times you helped to close a loophole that let the Republicans have their say.
BYRD: They’re wrong.
WOODRUFF: They were the minority.
BYRD: They’re wrong, they’re dead wrong. And they’ve told themselves that so much that they probably believe it.
It’s not right. They’re wrong.
The ordinary people — the elderly, the young, they’re about to have their rights curtailed by this silly notion that filibuster ought to be eliminated. The filibuster is the last weapon, the lifeline of the liberty of the people. They need to back off that.
WOODRUFF: Last question, Senator. Are you running for re- election?
BYRD: Well, I’m not going to announce it today. I’m thinking about it, seriously.
WOODRUFF: What are you leaning toward?
BYRD: Taking care of the issues here. I’m leaning toward defeating this opening of Pandora’s box, cutting off the filibuster.
WOODRUFF: Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia. He did go onto accuse the Bush administration of trying to pack the federal courts, in his words.
Thanks to Diane101 for the transcript.