In one of the most shocking displays of partisan squabbling we’ve seen in some time, the Senate Judiciary Committee broke into chaos today while attempting to hold a vote on controversial Bush nominee Catherina Haynes, who would fill the final vacancy on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. During the Committee’s executive business meeting, all but one Republican Committee member joined Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) in blasting what they called efforts by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his fellow Democrats to derail several Bush circuit court nominees.
Republicans on the Committee, who seem to have galvanized behind Sen. Specter’s plan to stall Senate procedures, appeared to take turns denouncing their Democratic colleagues. According to Congressional Quarterly, Sen. Brownback griped, “I think we all know where this is headed right now,” and warned that slow progression on Bush’s nominees might “force guys like [him] to say ‘okay, I guess we have to take extraordinary actions.’”
While reports have been circulating for some time that Sen. Specter was considering “shutting down the Senate” in the hopes of forcing movement on judges, today’s Committee outburst was really only successful in delaying the vote on Fifth Circuit nominee Catherina Haynes, amounting to what Chairman Leahy called a “filibustering of [their] own judge.” When Chairman Leahy finally sounded the two-minute warning, the absurdity of the Republicans' endless bickering appeared to seep in, prompting Sen. Specter to call on his colleagues to wrap up their sniping in order to hold a voice vote on Haynes. Committee Republicans were left with just enough time to push through her nomination.
When the meeting adjourned, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) dismissed the complaints of his Republican colleagues, claiming that “conservative[s]…know they no longer control the legislature…and their goal is [to] get as many hard-right people on the bench as possible.” In a statement released this afternoon, Alliance for Justice echoed Sen. Schumer’s concerns and called on the Senate to refuse hearings for all controversial nominees, particularly those who lack the support of their home-state senators.