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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Senate Judiciary Committee Can't Seem to Play Nice

Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Friday, crying "no fair!" and complaining that so far, the Senate confirmed fewer Bush nominees than were approved during Clinton's final year (when Republicans had control). Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Specter said, "[T]here must be confirmations or at least up-or-down votes on 9 additional circuit court and 23 district court judges to equal President Clinton’s record."

What Specter forgets to mention however, is that Bush has not even nominated as many judges as there are seats to be filled. The president and his allies in the Senate like to point a collective finger at Democrats and claim that it is because of their "obstructionism" that vacancies exist in the federal judiciary. In reality, Bush has only put forward 10 nominees for 14 circuit court vacancies. Anyone can see that Bush cares less about filling vacancies than he does about advancing his agenda through the judges that he appoints. The circumstances this year are not even comparable to what they were at the end of Clinton's final term.

President Clinton routinely consulted with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.) regarding his nominees and consistently put up consensus candidates to fill circuit seats. President Bush on the other hand, has repeatedly refused to consult with even home-state senators on his nominees and in several cases has put forward candidates who faced widespread opposition even from Republican senators (see E. Duncan Getchell). As Leahy put it in his response to Specter's complaints, “If the White House and the Senate Republicans were serious about filling vacancies and not just seeking to score partisan political points, the president would not make nominations opposed by home state senators of both parties.”

Let's hope Leahy continues to hold his position and doesn't let the White House and its allies to score "partisan political points." Judges should be confirmed to the federal bench on the basis of their qualifications and judicial philosophy, not as a result of conservative scare-tactics.


Nena Bartlett said...

Regardless of how you feel about the individual judicial nominees, there is a valid concern here. Blocking hearings for judicial nominees is a dangerous precedent, especially if it is continuing to get worse. No matter who started it, this issue must be addressed. The Committee for Justice has an interesting press release that can be read at committeeforjustice.org/blog, and mentions how the presidential candidates should be expected to weigh in.

Alliance for Justice said...

The issue here, however, IS the individual nominees. President Bush continues to eschew consultation and put up controversial nominees. He has even drawn criticism from some in his own party for his selections. Ensuring that the judiciary remains fair and independent is not only these senators' right, but their responsibility.