- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

A Senate panel will hold a rare recess hearing on President Bush's judicial nominees in what Republicans say is a fresh show of bipartisanship in the Democrat-controlled body.
"Senate Republicans are pleased the Judiciary Committee is moving forward with considering nominations, and it is our hope that this is the beginning of a process to move scores of judicial nominees," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
The Aug. 27 hearing is set for Sharon Prost's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit based in Washington, which deals with intellectual-property rights, and Terry Wooten's nomination for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said this "unprecedented" August hearing is the result of a "tumultuous year," in which Democrats took control of the Senate after Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent.
With reorganization of Senate committees spilling into the summer, few judicial hearings have been held.
"This is an effort to continue to make progress on nominees before the committee," Mr. Carle said.
Mr. Wooten is the former Republican chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the point man during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' 1991 hearing.
Mrs. Prost also served as Republican chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and former chairman.
All of Mr. Bush's judicial and administrative nominations were technically returned to the White House in a procedural move by Mr. Lott Aug. 3, on the eve of the summer recess. The White House will renominate the 73 candidates when Congress returns Sept. 4.
Mr. Lott objected to Democratic attempts to single out two contentious nominees to be returned to the White House, saying that if the two are sent back, then all must be returned. The two nominees were Mary Sheila Gall and Otto Reich.
The returning of nominees does not affect their status, but is a nuisance for Democrat staffers who have to collect and deliver all nomination documents back to the White House.
Mr. Lott acknowledged that the process is laborious, but said it "does highlight our concern about the way these two nominees are being treated."
"We believe Mary Sheila Gall's nomination to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was treated very badly and very shabbily in terms of the things that were said about her and the vote that occurred," Mr. Lott said.
"With regard to Otto Reich to be assistant secretary of state, he has not had a hearing. We believe it is unfair to single him out and send back just one nominee at this time," Mr. Lott said.
Miss Gall's nomination was defeated in committee on a strict party-line vote and is the only Bush nominee to be rejected so far. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, led the effort to defeat Miss Gall, who would replace her close friend and ally, Chairman Ann Brown.
Mrs. Brown this week said she will step down Nov. 1 as chairman, but White House officials say she may be removed before then. Her term expires in 2006.
Democrats oppose Mr. Reich's nomination because of the former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela's opposition to Communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his defense of the Reagan administration's involvement in Central America during the 1980s.

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