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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Senate Republicans Play Hardball on Judges

Senate Republicans are turning up the heat on their Democratic colleagues to push through President Bush’s remaining judicial nominees. Just two days after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.) criticized Senate Democrats in The National Review for not moving fast enough on judges, the Wall Street Journal notes that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is attempting to make good on earlier threats to “shut down the Senate” if Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) doesn’t start scheduling votes.

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece today was supportive of Sen. Specter’s calls for what essentially amounts to a work stoppage, claiming that “the Democrats' slow judicial roll” is an “abuse of the Constitution, which gives the President the responsibility of selecting judges while the Senate has an obligation to vote up or down.” Interesting. The Journal's interpretation of the Constitution seems a bit simplistic – not to mention awfully similar to Sen. Hatch’s. And, as we said yesterday in our response to Sen. Hatch, “nowhere in the Constitution did the Framers provide the caveat, ‘and by advice and consent we mean up-or-down vote.’”

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of today’s editorial, is the inconsistency of its arguments. The idea that Sen. Specter would be justified in promoting “a series of procedural stalls that would make it next to impossible for the Senate to get anything done” because he feels that the Senate is not fulfilling its confirmation duties seems absurd. As Sen. Hatch noted in The National Review Monday, this Congress’ approval ratings are at record lows. To presume that the American public would approve of legislative gridlock generated by Senate Republicans in order to get their way on judges seems highly unlikely.

Sen. Patrick Leahy and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee have repeatedly offered to work with President Bush to advance nominees who have the support of home-state senators. Nominees like G. Steven Agee, who Bush recently nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. But, it seems that the president and his allies in the Senate would rather play a game of judicial roulette, betting that they can push through a few more ultra-conservative judges before Bush’s term expires. As we’ve said time and again, senators should continue to stand up for the independence of our judiciary and resist mounting pressure to rubberstamp President Bush’s pending nominees.

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