- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kindergarten rules came to the Senate on Wednesday as the Republicans’ leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, put Democrats in timeout for what he said was bad behavior.

Accusing Democrats of failing to make good on various promises to confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees, the minority leader halted the global-warming debate and forced the clerk to read every word of the 491-page bill as a protest “to give the majority time to contemplate and consider the importance of keeping your word.”

The Kentucky Republican lectured Democrats on keeping commitments and issued the starkest threat to date that Republicans will retaliate next year if a Democrat wins the White House.

“It strikes me it’s to their advantage to defuse this issue, because around here, what goes around comes around. That’s happening today. It could happen next year,” Mr. McConnell said. “Surely, they’re not so shortsighted as to think, ‘Goodness, just a few months from now we could be processing nominees that we like.’ ”

He accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, of falling behind on a pledge to confirm 15 appeals court nominees this Congress - only eight have been approved so far - and also for approving only one of the three nominees he had promised by Memorial Day.

The reading lasted from just before 1 p.m. until late into the night, and Democrats said Republicans were looking for an excuse not to discuss global warming.

“This is such an insult to the American people,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, who is shepherding the global-warming bill through the Senate.

Mr. Reid’s spokesman said Republicans are the ones who are holding up nominations by preventing votes on two selections Democrats want to see confirmed. Jim Manley said that without Republican obstruction, the Democratic leader would have succeeded in his pledge to confirm three appeals court confirmations by Memorial Day.

“Any successful deal requires good faith by both sides - in this case, unfortunately, our willingness was not matched by the other side,” Mr. Manley said.

Judges are among the most bitter of political battles, stirring those on the wings of both parties, particularly heading into a presidential election. Some conservative leaders have said it’s reason enough for them to overcome their misgivings and support presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, who has promised to nominate conservative judges.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrats’ likely nominee, said he would nominate judges partly on the basis of their empathy and compassion.

With elections looming, Mr. McConnell said he thinks Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, is deliberately moving slowly to try to run out the clock on Mr. Bush’s nominations.

“I believe that’s what the chairman of the Senate committee has in mind,” he said.

Mr. Leahy is using a different yardstick than Mr. McConnell, pointing to judicial vacancies as the measure. On Tuesday, he said he’s on track for real progress.

“Disputes over a handful of controversial judicial nominations have wasted valuable time that could be spent on the real priorities of every American. I have sought, instead, to make progress where we can. The result is the significant reduction in judicial vacancies,” he said.

He also said he will schedule votes for two nominees to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyer Raymond M. Kethledge and Michigan Appeals Court Judge Helene N. White, both of whom are sought by Democrats.

But Republicans said he should schedule votes on other nominees they want to see, including U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr., and lawyers Peter D. Keisler and Steve A. Matthews, all of whom have been waiting longer than the two nominees Mr. Leahy wants to move.

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