- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

In a recently published letter to the editor in The Washington Times ( "Judicial confirmations going faster than ever," Nov. 26), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy responded to a suggestion purely humanitarian in spirit, of course that Americans hold a thought for the helpless and voiceless among us: namely, the federal judicial nominees still awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee. We called them "Americans held hostage" to a particularly virulent strain of Democratic politicking.
Mr. Leahy's rambling dissent which, regrettably, must have been written over Thanksgiving vacation may be summarized thus: "Eighteen judges … eight more … another 10 … will approach 30 … exceeding the total and doubling the total … nine hearings … twenty-eight judicial nominees … two unprecedented hearings … including one that no Republican bothered to attend." And there was even more helpful information from Mr. Leahy. "Five hearings … 21 nominees … two nominees," he wrote. "Commercial flights grounded … anthrax contamination … the Judiciary Committee kept working," he explained. "Five more judicial nominees … hearings on 10 … hearings on more … held more hearings … more nominees … more nominees … confirmed more judges … does credit to the Senate."
Hear ye, hear ye. Even without benefit of a numerological analysis by Louis Farrakhan, any layman with half a mind for figures can tell that the Senate Judiciary Committee under Patrick "Greased Lightning" Leahy must have confirmed about 223 judicial nominees, give or take a dozen hearings. This is a particularly astonishing feat, given that the president has nominated just 64 men and women to the bench. Why, federal courthouses across the nation must be hanging "No Vacancy" signs on the scales of justice while the truth goes marching on. Or does it? A close examination of Mr. Leahy's blizzard of figures reveals and it pains us to say this a bit of a snow job. The Vermont Senator notes that, by Nov. 14, the Senate had confirmed 18 judges selected by President Bush, who picked his first nominees last May. "This is 10 more than were confirmed by the same date in the first year of the Clinton administration," Mr. Leahy wrote (italics added).
It is indeed true that, by Nov. 24,1993, eight Clinton nominees (who had not been named until August) had been confirmed. But why does Mr. Leahy's history lesson stop on Nov. 14? After all, his letter is dated Nov. 26. Could it be because, on Nov. 20, 1993, the Senate confirmed 19 more Clinton judges? This adds up to the confirmation of 27 Clinton judges inside of three months. Even Mr. Leahy would agree that 27 is somewhat larger than 18 or would he? Higher math aside, a simple ratio for easy comparison remains. Eighteen out of President Bush's 64 nominees have been confirmed. To date, this comes to a none-too-stellar 28 percent success rate. Compare Mr. Bush's record with those of his predecessors' first years in office: President Clinton hit 57 percent, with 27 confirmations out of 47 nominations; the previous President Bush managed 62 percent, with 15 confirmations out of 24; and Ronald Reagan, back in the days before "Borking" was a word, saw a Democratic-controlled Senate put 41 of his 45 new nominees on the bench, for a whopping 91 percent success rate.
In his letter to the The Washington Times, Mr. Leahy promised to confirm about 10 more of Mr. Bush's nominees before the year ends. This, at least, is a little bit of good news for the overloaded justice system, which has been stretched dangerously thin by its 111 vacancies. Meanwhile, it should be remembered that the state of the judiciary is more than the sum of its vacancy and confirmation rates. As slowly sorry as lightning-fast as Mr. Leahy would have us believe he has acted on Mr. Bush's less-controversial nominees (who, after all, included a recess appointment of Mr. Clinton's), that rate will seem like quicksilver next to the plan of inaction that Mr. Leahy and his staff have in store for Mr. Bush's more conservative picks, such as Miguel Estrada and John Roberts, two stellar choices for the undermanned D.C. Court of Appeals.
The hostage crisis not only continues, but promises to get worse in the days ahead.



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