Today, Senate Republicans renewed threats to “shut down the Senate” if their Democratic colleagues didn’t start confirming President Bush’s pending circuit court nominees. Emboldened by the support of his party, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that “there is a growing movement in the Republican caucus to hold up legislation if we cannot move in any other way to get justice on the confirmation of these judges.”
Oddly enough, these complaints came on the same day that Catherina Haynes, Bush’s nominee to fill the final vacancy on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, is expected to receive Senate approval for her appointment. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who joined his fellow Republicans in condemning Senate Democrats, hinted at the peculiar timing of today’s outburst. In a statement, Sen. Cornyn thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for “his cooperation in dealing with…Catharina Haines [sic].” It seems that Sen. Cornyn’s office has been too busy bashing the Democrats’ so-called “stall tactics” to worry about something as trivial as spelling his home state nominee’s name correctly.
The Senate GOP seems determined to instigate an election-year battle over the issue of judges – a particular favorite of their conservative base. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote an opinion piece for The National Review last week in which he claimed that “at both stages in the confirmation process, the Judiciary Committee and the Senate floor, Democrats are failing to meet both historical and their own standards.” Sen. Specter spoke with the Wall Street Journal editorial board last Wednesday to articulate his plan to initiate “a series of procedural stalls that would make it next to impossible for the Senate to get anything done.” And on the Senate floor today, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) warned that “unless we start approving some circuit court judges, business isn’t going to happen around here.”
In a statement released today, Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron dismissed this rhetoric as partisan nonsense. “Senate Republicans lob quite a few stones from their glass house, bemoaning the actions of Senate Democrats as politicizing the process when it is the Bush administration and its allies that treat judicial selection as a take-no-prisoners item on a political agenda. It is not Senate Democrats who have threatened to grind the nation’s business to a halt - not once, but twice - because they aren’t getting their way. It is not Senate Democrats who use the federal bench as red meat for their base. This latest sally is nothing more than sound and fury signifying an election year.”