Dems Hanging Tough on Judicial Nominations

Nathan Newman nathan at
Thu May 3 06:33:50 PDT 2001

Well, so far despite the folks who keep saying the Dems always cave to the GOP, the Dems have been holding pretty tough. No bills subject to filibuster have advanced to conference committee, including the bankruptcy bill, and now the Dems are threatening to veto all judicial appointments unless given a veto over most of them. (The budget has separate rules that allow majority passage and budget conferencing).

We'll see how well they keep it up, but so far Tom Daschle is quietly filibustering almost everything in sight.

-- Nathan Newman

Democrats vow to fight for right to veto judges Source: The Washington Times Published: May 3, 2001 Author: Audrey Hudson and Dave Boyer

Senate Democrats yesterday threatened to block all of President Bush´s judicial nominees unless they are given veto power over appointments in their home states.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said there is "absolute unanimity" among Democrats to hold the nominations hostage until their demands are met.

"We just won´t allow the vote," Mr. Daschle told reporters. "We´ll extend debate, and we can guarantee that they will not" proceed.

Senate Republican leaders are resisting the Democrats´ demand, but Democrats have the votes to carry out their threat in the 50-50 Senate because Republicans need 60 votes to stop a filibuster.

Democrats agreed on the strategy last week at a retreat in western Pennsylvania, and Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, could be the first victim.

Mr. Cox is the first sitting member of Congress in line for a Bush administration appointment, a federal judgeship in his home state.

Background checks are under way, and the official paperwork on Mr. Cox´s nomination is moving. A House leadership aide said a meeting "key" to the nomination will be held today when Mr. Cox seeks the support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

But Mrs. Feinstein, in an interview with The Washington Times yesterday, sounded skeptical of Mr. Cox´s candidacy.

"Chris Cox comes from probably the most conservative district in the state," Mrs. Feinstein said. "It isn´t the mainstream in the state of California by a long shot."

Of his ideology, Mrs. Feinstein said, "There are many areas where he´s taken a position in Congress that are of course different from what the law is. The real question I have is, why should I vote for you to be a federal judge? So I want to have that conversation."

Fellow California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer already has indicated she opposes Mr. Cox´s nomination.

However, Mrs. Feinstein said she has an agreement with the administration to establish commissions equally divided across party lines to create a bank of qualified candidates.

"I think we ought to get that functioning and see how it works," Mrs. Feinstein said.

Although Democrats long accused Republicans of dragging their feet on President Clinton´s judicial nominations, Republicans say it is rare for judicial nominees to be so aggressively blocked.

"This is relatively unprecedented and dramatically mean-spirited by any measure," Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, said of the Democrats´ demands.

During the Clinton era, Republicans were discouraged from filibustering the Senate to oppose nominees, Mr. Craig said.

After winning control of the Senate in 1995, Republicans approved 240 of the first 241 Clinton-appointed judges to come up for a vote. In his eight years in the White House, President Clinton had 377 of his judicial appointees approved by the Senate, roughly comparable to the 382 judges President Reagan placed on the federal bench in his eight-year term.

Democrats complained bitterly in 1999 when 13 Republican senators vowed to block all of Mr. Clinton´s judicial nominees because of a dispute over so-called "recess appointments."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called that threat a "reckless and disproportionate response."

Democrats say they want the same nomination process Republicans enjoyed during the Clinton administration, but Republicans say it is the same process.

For the past eight years, the Judiciary Committee has followed the same procedures initiated by former committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, a committee spokeswoman said.

If a senator rejected a nominee from his home state, it did not preclude a vote but was a "significant factor" to be weighed by the committee in its evaluation on the nominee, according to the June 6, 1989, letter from Mr. Biden to former President Bush.

If the administration fails to consult with the home state senators before submitting a nomination, however, "the nominee will not be considered," the letter said.

Democrats say Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, did not follow Mr. Biden´s policy during the Clinton administration.

"I keep telling Orrin, 'Stop taking my name in vain, pal. This is not Biden policy,´" Mr. Biden said.

The Bush administration is not consulting with senators on his nominations, Mr. Biden said, but the first nomination has yet to be forwarded to Congress.

"We will insist that before the vote on confirmation that both senators, in the case of two Democrats, or one senator in the case of a single Democrat representing the state, have the ability to sign off on that nominee or it won´t go anywhere," Mr. Daschle said.

Mr. Cox is the fourth-highest-ranking House member and was elected in 1988.

He served as senior counsel to President Reagan and his successful primary campaign against more than a half-dozen fellow Republicans was attributed to his yard signs: a replica of a thank-you note to Mr. Cox from Mr. Reagan.

House aides say if Mr. Cox´s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, they are confident Republicans will retain his congressional seat.

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