- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

The White House yesterday called on Senate Democrats to act on a backlog of 157 nominations, including a candidate who a Republican senator suggested is a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry.
"It's time for the Senate to act on the president's nominees and assure that the important work of America's government can be done," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Mr. Fleischer singled out two stalled nominations: Otto Reich for assistant secretary of state, and Eugene Scalia for Labor Department solicitor. Of Mr. Reich, he said the Democrat-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee "refuses even a simple request to give the man his day in court or a fair hearing."
A spokeswoman for committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware did not respond to several requests for comment.
Mr. Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was approved six weeks ago by the Senate Health, Education and Labor and Pensions Committee, but Majority Leader Tom Daschle has yet to allow a floor vote on his nomination.
Mr. Daschle said yesterday he will allow a vote on Mr. Scalia at some point, but added that supporters probably do not have the required 60 votes to defeat an expected Democratic filibuster of the nomination.
"I just haven't scheduled it, in part because I realize that it is going to take some time," Mr. Daschle said.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he is concerned about accusations that Mr. Scalia is being punished because he is a "devout pro-life Catholic."
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that liberal and feminist groups are gearing up for a "nasty and contentious fight" against President Bush's judicial nominees who do not support abortion. Mr. Hatch said he hopes the same reasons do not extend to Mr. Scalia's nomination.
"These partisan rationales, extraneous to Mr. Scalia's qualifications, are bound to arise when the Democratic leadership refuses to allow [his nomination] to be openly debated in the light of day," Mr. Hatch said. "If you don't like Mr. Scalia, for any reason at all including the fact that he is a pro-life Catholic or the fact that he's Justice Scalia's son, then vote against him and you can show your bigotry that way."
Mr. Daschle said that Democrats' opposition to Mr. Scalia has nothing to do with his religious views.
"In all of the discussions and conversations I've had about that particular nomination, his pro-life position has never come up with me once," Mr. Daschle said. "It has a lot more to do with his unwillingness to, apparently, carry out the laws that will be entrusted to him as the chief enforcer in the Department of Labor, his unwillingness to look at ergonomics laws that exist or that might be propounded."
Mr. Scalia has said that the proposed regulations on ergonomics, or repetitive workplace injuries, fashioned during the Clinton administration, were based on bad science. But he told the Senate committee that he would follow the law as Labor Department solicitor.
Congress repealed the last-minute Clinton regulations after Mr. Bush became president.
Some Senate Republicans also say Mr. Scalia is the victim of political payback because Democrats were angered by his father's vote with the majority in the Supreme Court decision that ended the contested Florida presidential election in favor of Mr. Bush. Democrats deny the accusation.
Mr. Fleischer also pointed out yesterday that the Senate has yet to act on 37 of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.
"There are more vacancies in the federal judiciary now than when President Bush came into office," Mr. Fleischer said. "The reason is because the Senate has failed to act."
Mr. Bush has nominated 64 district and circuit court judges, of whom 21 have been confirmed by the Senate.


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