Wednesday, May 16, 2001

President Bush has not abandoned three conservative judicial candidates he withheld from the Senate last week and might submit one of them, Rep. Christopher Cox, as early as next week in a second batch of nominees, sources close to the nomination process said yesterday.
Although the three candidates are still opposed by home-state senators, the White House has embarked upon an ambitious effort to assuage these Democrats, who had complained they were not sufficiently consulted the first time around.
White House Counsel Al Gonzales has already asked for a meeting with Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, to discuss the possible nomination of Mr. Cox. He has also sent a letter to Marylands two Democratic senators, urging them to at least consider the nomination of Peter Keisler.
The sources cautioned that more consultations must be held before Mr. Bush will nominate Mr. Keisler. And they warned that while Mr. Coxs name might be submitted in a second batch of Bush nominees next week, the president might wait until later to make the nomination.
The third candidate, Carolyn B. Kuhl, also remains under consideration as a nominee, although it was not clear when Mr. Bush might submit her name to the Senate.
The three were originally included in a group of 14 candidates the president intended to nominate last week. But he withdrew the trio at the last minute when Democratic senators complained they had not been consulted sufficiently.
Some conservatives worried that Mr. Bush, in an effort to appease Democrats, would no longer consider the three candidates. But sources told The Washington Times the president has no intention of abandoning the potential judges, even if that means tough confirmation fights in the Senate.
Johanna Ramos-Boyer, spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, said the Maryland Democrat will probably continue to oppose Mr. Keisler if Mr. Bush decides to nominate him at a later date.
The spokeswoman made clear that Miss Mikulski and Marylands other senator, Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, are still smarting from the way the White House handled a possible Keisler nomination last week.
“The consultation issue is not minor,” Mrs. Ramos-Boyer said. “Neither of them were consulted before Mr. Keislers name hit the newspapers. Thats how we first found out.”
To soften such opposition, Mr. Gonzales has sent the Maryland senators a letter asking them not to block Mr. Keisler from being considered if the president decides to nominate him.
The White House counsel invited the senators to personally interview Mr. Keisler, whose qualifications and accolades from prominent lawyers are emphasized in the letter.
Mr. Gonzales took pains to express his appreciation for the senators previous comments about Mr. Keisler and encouraged a continuing dialogue. If they are still inclined to oppose the nomination, Mr. Gonzales asked that they at least allow him to be considered in a hearing or a Senate vote.
The White House counsels office made similar overtures to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose state is the home of Mr. Cox and Mrs. Kuhl.
“Judge Gonzales has called our office and said hes interested in coming to discuss judges with the senator, but we dont have any specifics on who and what,” said Feinstein spokesman Howard Gantman.
“When she had previous discussions with the White House, she had stressed to them that for her to support moving forward with a candidate, she felt there needed to be adequate consultation,” he added. “The consultation comes first and then shell make some decisions about what she thinks about a particular nominee.”
Californias other Democratic senator, Mrs. Boxer, will be a tougher sell, especially on the possible nomination of Mr. Cox.
“She has made it clear to the White House that she will oppose the Cox nomination, and our office is still doing research on Judge Kuhl,” said Boxer spokesman David Sandretti.
Mrs. Boxer is still rankled about the way the initial batch of nominees was handled.
“About three weeks ago, the White House informed us that they intended to nominate two people from California, including Congressman Cox and Carolyn Kuhl,” Mr. Sandretti said. “And then last week, just before the first batch of names were sent up, we were informed that they were not going to be on the list.”
Mr. Bush appears willing to weather opposition from Mrs. Boxer if Mrs. Feinstein decides she has received sufficient consultation.
A source close to the process said the president views the Cox nomination in the same light as his nomination last week of Terrence Boyle, a former aide to North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms.
Although North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat, made clear he would oppose the nomination, Mr. Bush sent it to the Senate anyway.

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