- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

Senate Republicans, saying Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has not budged in negotiations to treat President Bush´s judicial nominees fairly, narrowed their demands as both sides yesterday warned the issue could bring the chamber to a halt.

Republicans want Democrats to promise that Mr. Bush's nominees for the Supreme Court will receive a vote by the full Senate and that senators who block judicial nominees be identified publicly. Mr. Daschle has resisted.

"The Republicans want assurances that, unfortunately, we never had when we were in the minority," Mr. Daschle said. "We´re going to be fair and we´re going to be as balanced as we can be."

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said Republicans are simply trying to get Democrats to agree on the record to what has been the Senate´s practice on Supreme Court candidates for years.

Mr. Daschle met again late yesterday with a team of Republican negotiators, but a quick agreement was not expected.

The impasse is delaying work in Senate committees, which switched to control by Democratic chairmen last week but still have Republican majorities until senators approve a reorganization. Mr. Daschle said he will not bring up the deal on restructuring committees until both sides agree on an approach to the administration's nominees.

"I know the administration certainly wants to see votes on nominations and other issues, and so that´s all the more reason why it´s important for us to finish," Mr. Daschle said.

He also said that the administration's request for $6.5 billion in supplemental appropriations including $5.5 billion for the military is likely to be delayed.

Both sides are claiming leverage. While Democrats say the administration´s agenda will languish during the stalemate, Republicans say Senate Democrats, too, won't be able to get much done in committees. But some Republicans acknowledge privately that prolonged gridlock will hurt the administration.

Republican lawmakers presented Mr. Daschle earlier this week with a request to allow floor votes on candidates for federal appeals courts, even if the nominees are rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican sources said Mr. Daschle's response promised in a general sense to treat nominees fairly but did not specifically address the Republicans' request.

Republicans then asked Mr. Daschle for the guarantee on Supreme Court nominees, which Mr. Daschle considered a step backward in the talks.

Asked yesterday if his position had not changed since talks began last week, Mr. Daschle replied, "Correct."

"We tried to narrow the focus to get results," Mr. Lott said. "Even though there may not have been an agreement [in writing] before, obviously the Supreme Court nominees have been voted on. Even [Clarence] Thomas and [Robert] Bork were voted on in the full Senate."

Justice Thomas was approved for the high court; Judge Bork was rejected.

A Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said yesterday that Democrats have "misrepresented the Clinton nomination process as being unfair" to gain public support during the current negotiations.

Mr. Daschle said last week that 45 percent of President Clinton's nominees for federal appeals courts did not get hearings in the last five years of his presidency, when the Senate was in Republican control.

"They've created this myth that their nominees were badly treated to justify attacks on our Bush nominees," Mr. Sessions said. "They got 377 judges confirmed and one voted down. We need some sort of understanding that nominees will get the same deference they've always gotten."

Mr. Lott said Republicans want assurances either in writing or uttered in a "colloquy" on the Senate floor "where we get to express our hopes and our desires and we would like to get some assurances about what that means."

On the other hand, he said, Democrats "don't want to put it in a binding resolution or make commitments that would cause an uproar on their side."

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