Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced yesterday that he will hold hearings on May 7th for Helene White and Raymond Kethledge, both of whom have been nominated by President Bush for seats on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Michigan as the result of consultation and compromise with home state senators. Together with today’s hearing for G. Steven Agee, one of the president’s Fourth Circuit nominees, their confirmations would fulfill an agreement made last month between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move three circuit court nominees before Memorial Day recess.
But despite the good faith efforts of Senate Democrats to live up to their end of the bargain, their Republican colleagues remain dissatisfied. In a letter sent by Sen. Mitch McConnell and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter (R-PA), GOP senators complained that White and Kethledge couldn’t possibly be confirmed before this month’s recess and as a result, the Committee should consider the nominations of Peter Keisler (DC Circuit Court of Appeals), Robert Conrad and Steve Matthews (Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals) instead. Their reasoning for moving Keisler instead of Agee is a mystery – particularly in view of the fact that they never claimed Agee’s confirmation couldn’t make the May 23rd deadline.
The fact that Senator Leahy is moving to consider three of President Bush’s nominees in the span of a week shows the willingness of Senate Democrats to cooperate with the president and his allies. The fact that Senators McConnell and Specter are still not satisfied shows that they are not truly concerned with the number of judges confirmed – as they are so fond of saying – but rather the conservative ideology of those reaching the bench. We believe that the American public will see through their partisan mischief and support Sen. Leahy’s bipartisan efforts.