- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

Senate Democrats yesterday backed down from demands for veto power over judicial nominees, and said they will move forward with President Bushs first 11 candidates.
Rather than a blanket objection, Democrats will review nominees on a case-by-case basis standard Senate procedure.
Only one nominee, Terrence Boyle to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is opposed by his home-state senator, John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat. A negative blue slip on the nomination has been submitted, Democrats said.
"The result will not be a veto power over judges, it will, rather, force the White House to come meet us and act in a moderate way in terms of how they choose judges," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
"I think we ought to move ahead with these judges that the president submitted," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. "I think we ought to move the process ahead with them."
Democrats said they will continue the disputed "blue slip" policy to indicate support or opposition to federal judges from home-state senators, but it will not carry the weight of a veto, which they have been demanding for more than a month.
"Thats the power they always had," said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
The White House planned to send 14 nominations to the Senate yesterday, but withheld three nominees objected to by their home-state senators.
In their public statements, Democratic senators declared victory, citing the three withheld nominations, which they called a good-faith gesture from Mr. Bush.
Asked if letting the process go forward is a conciliatory gesture from Democrats to the White House, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware said "yeah, it is."
"I am pleased the White House has chosen to work with us on this first group," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
Democrats had earlier refused to take the word of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Judiciary Committee chairman and Utah Republican, that consultation would take place. Now they appear willing to give Mr. Hatch and the president the benefit of the doubt.
As further proof of the Democrats retreat, they agreed to let key Justice Department nominations held hostage over the veto issue move forward today.
"The president made a gesture and it was met with a gesture from the Democrats," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
"This was a first test to see if they will be cooperative, although there will be many more tests down the road," Mr. Bonjean said.
Mr. Schumer said the Democrats have received "initial signals" the White House "will not try to just roll over us."
If a home-state senator does object to a nomination and it is not resolved through consultation, Mr. Schumer suggested the unified Democratic caucus would block the nomination in committee. The committee is split 9-9, but votes cannot be cast without a quorum of 10 members.
Mr. Kyl called the tactic "absolutely unprecedented" and said he hoped objections would be based on qualifications, not on "political pique or partisan reasons."
Democrats said they were reserving judgment on the first batch of nominees, except to say that most are conservative candidates. Two nominations, however, were first put forth by former President Bill Clinton: Roger L. Gregory to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Barrington D. Parker Jr. to the 2nd Circuit.
Republicans are united in their approval of the nominations, and said each "has demonstrated outstanding legal abilities, the highest ethical standards, and a proven record of service to diverse communities," according to a Senate Republican policy paper issued yesterday.
Mr. Hatch did not address the Democrats retreat, but, in a statement released by his office, said he hoped to move the nominees quickly through his committee and onto the Senate floor for a final vote.
"President Bush has nominated top-notch, highly-qualified candidates to the bench," Mr. Hatch said.
"He has reached across the aisle and nominated Democrats and continues to keep his promise to work in a bipartisan fashion to lower the partisan rhetoric in this town," Mr. Hatch said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said nominees selected on their qualifications would likely be confirmed, but that Democrats would block those they believe were picked for their ideology.
The White House also angered Democrats when it removed the American Bar Association (ABA) from the vetting process.
However, Mr. Kennedy said Democratic reviews of the candidates "will specifically include analysis by the ABA and recommendations by the home-state senators."
"We ought to hear from the Bar Association, we ought to have extensive examination of their backgrounds, we ought to hear what the home senators say about them," Mr. Kennedy said.
Dave Boyer contributed to this article.


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