The Senate Judiciary Committee saw more partisan acrimony today over the vote on Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals nominees Raymond Kethledge and Helene White. The nominees, whose hearings were held on May 7th, were originally intended by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to fulfill his commitment to process three circuit court nominees before the Memorial Day recess – G. Steven Agee’s confirmation to the Fourth Circuit filled the third slot.
Republican members of the committee objected to scheduling a vote however, claiming that Judge White’s nomination was rushed through without sufficient time to examine her record. Opposition at her hearing centered around the fact that the ABA had not yet released its revised rating of her qualifications – despite the fact that she had received a “qualified” rating in 1997 when she was originally nominated for the seat.
Both judges made it out of committee today, but the vote on Judge White was along mostly partisan lines. Raymond Kethledge received a unanimous voice vote, but eight Republicans, including Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) voted against Judge White. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), angered by Republican opposition to one of their own nominees, said that because she had been nominated by both a Democratic and Republican president, her nomination should have received a “consensus confirmation.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chaired the committee in 1997 when Judge White was initially nominated to the seat by President Clinton, was the only Republican on the committee to support her confirmation. His colleagues still contended that they were not given ample time to review her record before the vote. Their complaint rings hollow however, considering that after her nomination by President Clinton, her bid lagged for over three years, longer than any nominee in Senate history.
Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said in a statement today that the actions of committee Republicans “clearly demonstrate a desire to not only leverage the judiciary as an election-year issue, but also to pack the courts with like-minded ideologues. By applying a double standard in their assessment of nominees, Republicans turned White’s confirmation hearing into a witch hunt, despite giving repeated passes and deference to other nominees with acceptable conservative bona fides, including Sixth Circuit nominee Raymond Kethledge who was voted out of committee today by voice vote.”