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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Sat. 03/27/04 10:07:24 AM

Senate Democrats Further Politicize Judicial Appointments

Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CCXLI

FNC reports yesterday, WaTi today.

First, the FNC article (ellipsis in original).

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All White House nominees will be blocked. That's right: every single one.

That's the word from Sen. Charles Schumer's office, which released a statement on Friday saying that Senate Democrats plan "to hold nominations until the White House commits to stop abusing the advise and consent process."

Schumer's release followed a statement by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on the Senate floor Friday, in which he vowed to make life difficult for the president's nominees as long as Bush keeps using his recess appointment power to install the ones Democrats oppose.

"This White House is insisting on a departure from historic and constitutional practices," Daschle said. "At no point has a president ever used a recess appointment to install a rejected nominee onto the federal bench, and there are intonations there will be even more recess appointments in the coming months.

"We will continue to cooperate in the confirmation of federal judges, but only if the White House gives us the assurance that they will no longer abuse the process, but it will once again respect our Constitution's essential system of checks and balances," Daschle said.

The Senate has approved the vast majority of President Bush's nominees, but six have been blocked by Democrats. Two were later appointed by Bush during congressional recesses, a maneuver that is supposed to be reserved for an emergency, but has occasionally been used by administrations as a way to avoid a Senate confirmation vote.

The two appointments Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering and Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, both of whom were put on appeals courts enraged Democrats and spurred them to action to prevent another appointment.

"The president's use of recess appointments to circumvent the advise and consent process puts a finger in the eye of the Constitution ... Our caucus is strong, united, and firm in the belief that we are upholding the Constitution and preventing the president from packing the federal bench unilaterally with ideologues. We hope the president has learned that we will not yield; this is an issue of principle, not politics," Schumer said.

According to the Constitution, the Senate's advise and consent responsibility gives senators the authority to approve the president's nominees to the court system and elsewhere. Although Democrats are in the minority, according to Senate rules it takes 60 votes to achieve cloture a call for the end of debate and movement toward a final vote.

With 48 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent, the Democrats have the numbers to hold up nominees, and have done so six times, leading to some dicey political dust-ups and the withdrawal from consideration of one nominee, attorney Miguel Estrada.

In response to the successful filibusters, the president twice this year has taken unilateral action.

In January, Bush used his recess appointment authority to sidestep the Senate and name Pickering to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Last month, Bush installed Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"A minority of Democratic senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified nominees from receiving up-or-down votes," Bush said in February, after making the Pryor appointment. "Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system."

The appointments last only until the next recess [sic], the beginning of 2005 when a new Congress is sworn in. The fates of Bush nominees Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown are still in limbo.

Daschle said the Senate Democrats were taking action for fear that more recess appointments were on the way. He called on his Republican colleagues to help resolve the impasse.

"We'd hoped for a different result, but the administration has left us no choice. I ask my Republican colleagues to reach out to the administration and urge them to return this process to its traditions of bipartisanship and cooperation," he said.

A White House spokeswoman told that the Democrats' decision is obstructionist.

"It's unfortunate the lengths that Sen. Daschle and a minority of Senate Democrats will go to obstruct the nomination process. At a time when we need our government to be at full strength, he is suggesting that we leave these critical seats empty, and the American people deserve better," said spokeswoman Erin Healy.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (search) office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Heading off impending charges that Democrats are being recalcitrant, Daschle said that in the current Congress, the Senate has confirmed a record 173 federal judges, while the three outstanding nominations have been rejected because of their records of "judicial activism in service to extreme ideology."

He added that the 108th Senate has confirmed 346 nonjudicial nominees to government boards and commissions.

Bush's use of the recess appointment is not innovative. President Clinton used his executive power in the same way, giving Roger Gregory a seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2000. In a very controversial move, Clinton used it one other time to name Bill Lann Lee to be assistant attorney general.

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Second, the WaTi article.

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Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle threatened yesterday to block all of President Bush's judicial nominees unless Mr. Bush promises to not appoint federal judges while Congress is on recess.

"We will continue to cooperate in the confirmation of federal judges," said Mr. Daschle, who faces re-election in South Dakota in November, "but only if the White House gives assurance that it will no longer abuse the process and that it will once again respect our Constitution's essential system of checks and balances."

Mr. Bush has used his recess appointment powers, outlined in the Constitution and used since George Washington's administration, to place two of his nominees on federal appeals benches this year without the typically required Senate approval. Both judges had been filibustered by Democrats for at least 10 months.

The threat brought immediate outrage from Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"While sitting in my office listening, I was astonished to hear the minority leader talk about the president's use of recess appointments," Mr. Cornyn said. "The only reason the president had to use the power that is very clearly conferred upon him in the U.S. Constitution is because of this unprecedented obstruction by the Democratic minority in the Senate."

Mr. Bush appointed judges Charles W. Pickering of Mississippi to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and William H. Pryor to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Both judges were among six Bush nominees Democrats filibustered on the Senate floor, preventing them from getting a final up-or-down vote. Each of the blocked nominees appears to have enough support for final confirmation if given a final vote.

One of them, Washington attorney Miguel Estrada, withdrew his name from consideration last fall after being filibustered for eight months.

Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said Democrats should stop playing games and give the nominees simple up-or-down votes.

"It is the unprecedented filibusters by the Democrats that necessitated the recess appointments that the Democrats are now criticizing," Mr. Hatch said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the use of recess appointments "puts a finger in the eye of the Constitution."

Democrats, who have helped confirm 173 of Mr. Bush's nominees, are particularly angry over Mr. Bush's recess appointment of Judge Pickering, since his nomination was killed in committee in 2002 when Democrats controlled the Senate.

"At no point has a president ever used a recess appointment to install a rejected nominee onto the federal bench," Mr. Daschle said. "And there are intimations that there will be even more recess appointments in the coming months."

Judges Pickering and Pryor will serve until next January when they again will face confirmation in the Senate. Mr. Schumer warned that Democrats will not back down.

"Our caucus is strong, united and firm in the belief that we are upholding the Constitution and preventing the president from packing the federal bench unilaterally with ideologues," he said. "We hope the president has learned that we will not yield. This is an issue of principle, not politics."

After Mr. Daschle's comments on the Senate floor yesterday, some on Capitol Hill were wondering if the threat hadn't already begun to work. Within hours of the threat, the Judiciary Committee issued a press statement saying that confirmation hearings scheduled for next week on an appellate judge and two federal district judges had been postponed.

"My understanding is that hearing was moved for a scheduling conflict," said committee spokeswoman Margarita Tapia. "It's completely unrelated."

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I must say, Faithful Reader, that reading about the Senate Democrats' flaming hypocrisy is enough to make you puke. They use procedural tactics to keep judicial nominees from getting a vote in the full Senate — not because they're bad appointments, but because they know that the Senate will approve the nominations.

Fortunately, America is catching on to this legislative demagoguery, and the Senate Democrats are digging still deeper the hole they dug for themselves leading up to the 2002 elections.

Lane Core Jr. CIW P — Sat. 03/27/04 10:07:24 AM
Categorized as Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode & Political.


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