- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

The Senate yesterday confirmed three of President Bush's federal judges, but rejected a Republican effort to hold a vote on Eugene Scalia's nomination as Labor Department solicitor general.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, asked for three hours of debate on Mr. Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and a vote by next week. Democrats ignored his request on the Senate floor.
Approved unanimously by voice vote were Kurt D. Engelhardt to the Eastern District of Louisiana and Julia A. Robinson to the District of Kansas. John D. Bates was approved on a recorded vote 97-0 to the D.C. District Court.
This brings the number of approved judges to 24 out of 64 nominations.
"In spite of the upheavals we have experienced this year, we are making progress," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "Far from taking a 'timeout,' as some Republicans have suggested, this committee has been in overdrive since July and has redoubled its efforts after September 11."
Republicans, however, continue to be frustrated by the confirmation rate they say is significantly lower than the past three administrations. Republicans also are beginning to privately question whether the president is doing enough to advance his own nominees.
A reporter specifically asked White House spokesman Ari Fleischer Monday what Mr. Bush has personally done to advance the nominations of Mr. Scalia and Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state.
"Well, that is something that the president has talked about with Senate leaders about the need to allow him to put his team in place. … And as a result of the messages that have been carried to the Senate leaders from the Congressional Relations Office, the Senate clearly understands the importance of passing out the president's nominees," Mr. Fleischer said.
One Republican supporter of the nominees called the White House response "weak."
Majority Leader Tom Daschle is refusing to allow a full Senate vote on Mr. Scalia, saying he is not qualified for the post.
Senate Republicans say Democrats are blocking the nomination in retaliation for Justice Scalia's vote in the Supreme Court's decision last year that helped to end the deadlocked presidential race in favor of George W. Bush for president.
All 49 Republican senators yesterday sent a letter to Mr. Daschle urging a vote before Congress adjourns for the year.
"We are concerned that further delays in the confirmation of Eugene Scalia will adversely affect not only ongoing and yet to be filed enforcement actions, but also the regulatory and consultative agenda of the department," the letter said.
Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said his colleagues will announce as early as today their strategy to move Mr. Scalia's nomination.
"Let me put it this way, there's not going to be much that Sen. [Edward M.] Kennedy wants that is going to move out of his committee until we get a vote on Scalia," Mr. Santorum said.
Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee responsible for moving Mr. Scalia's nomination.
"This is simply about trying to punish Justice Scalia for making a judicial decision, and that's beneath the dignity of the Senate in my opinion," Mr. Santorum said.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said there is "some indication" Democrats will bring up the nomination but kill it in a procedural vote.
"That would be an even greater abuse of the process," Mr. Lott said.

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