- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

Republicans charged yesterday that Minority Leader Harry Reid was wrong to mention on the Senate floor “a problem” he said is in a Bush nominee’s “confidential report from the FBI” as grounds for keeping him off the federal bench.

“He shouldn’t be pulling this kind of stunt,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican. “It is not civil, it is unfair, it is hitting below the belt, and it does ultimately show how desperate the democratic leadership is in the United State Senate.”

As Mr. Reid’s comment from Thursday ricocheted around the Internet yesterday, liberal bloggers rushed to his defense and a conservative group interested in judicial nominations filed a formal ethics complaint against Mr. Reid.

Mr. Allen, meanwhile, said the comments would “be examined” but declined to speculate further.

The imbroglio began Thursday when Mr. Reid said Michigan Appeals Court Judge Henry Saad, nominated by President Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, would be filibustered under any circumstances.

“All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree that there is a problem there,” Mr. Reid said, referring to the FBI file generated from the routine background investigations all judicial nominees must go through.

Colleagues of Judge Saad, as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill, were outraged and accused Mr. Reid of violating Senate rules to smear the nominee.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said he hoped the Mr. Reid’s remarks “were unintended,” adding, “I believe comments with regard to FBI files should not be talked about on the floor of the United States Senate.”

The Center for Individual Freedom, a conservative group that monitors judicial nominations, filed a formal ethics complaint yesterday against Mr. Reid, contending that he violated a Senate rule, “which protects the secrecy of confidential Senate business and proceedings, including privileged access to FBI background information.”

Reid spokesman Jim Manley dismissed the complaint as part of “desperate partisan attacks designed to distract Americans from the upcoming debate on the Senate floor over judicial nominees.”

Reid defenders said yesterday that the Democratic leader had done nothing wrong, especially because questions about Judge Saad’s file already had been raised during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year. Several newspapers, including The Washington Times, reported that the committee met behind closed doors to discuss questions raised during the background investigation. However, no details about the file were obtained or reported even though part of that private hearing was inadvertently put on the Internet.

Republicans said it was irrelevant that the file had previously come up, saying Mr. Reid went further and characterized the contents as being bad enough to keep Judge Saad off the bench. Especially odious to Republicans is that Judge Saad — since he’s still under consideration for the federal bench — is unable to respond to the attack.

“Whether it is a violation [of Senate ethics rules], it is absolutely wrong,” Mr. Allen said. “And Senator Reid knows it’s wrong if he just thinks for three seconds how unfair — what a below the belt punch this really is.”

Mr. Frist’s office also announced yesterday that the Senate would take up the nominations of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown on Wednesday. Justice Owen, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and Justice Brown, nominated to the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit, are among 10 Bush nominees that have been filibustered.

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