- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked yesterday over the nomination of Theodore B. Olson as solicitor general, setting up the first test of the equally divided bodys power-sharing agreement.
The nomination was stalled in three previous committee meetings, but its chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, insisted on a vote yesterday, which resulted in the 9-9 party-line ballot.
"There comes a time when we have to vote," said Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican.
"We have seen too much personal destruction, and I plead with my colleagues not to allow another incredibly accomplished person be turned into a one-dimensional caricature," Mr. Hatch said.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he will try to work out a deal with Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle to bring Mr. Olsons nomination for a floor vote. The other alternative for Republicans would be to try to force a floor vote through a procedural maneuver called a discharge petition.
"I would like to get this done with as little acrimony as possible," the Mississippi Republican told reporters before a meeting with Mr. Hatch.
Under the power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 split Senate, Democrats and Republicans have an equal number of seats on the committee. But a tie can be resolved by a vote of the full Senate, where Vice President Richard B. Cheney could cast the deciding vote in his role as Senate president.
It would take a majority of 51 votes to force the nomination out of committee and for final confirmation, which Republicans have the numbers to accomplish.
Under the power-sharing agreement, Democrats cannot filibuster the discharge petition to force the nomination out of committee, but they can block the final confirmation vote by a filibuster, which needs 60 votes to be broken, said a spokesman for Mr. Lott.
Mr. Lott said he wants to vote on Mr. Olson as soon as possible, but the Senate schedule next week is tied up with President Bushs tax-cut plan and education bill.
If no agreement is reached, Mr. Olsons nomination will be on hold until after the Memorial Day recess, May 26 to June 4.
Mr. Olsons nomination was first held hostage to Democrats demands that they be given veto power over Mr. Bushs judicial nominations.
After Democrats retreated on that demand, the vote was again delayed because Democrats wanted more time to study Mr. Olsons role as a board director of the American Spectator magazine.
Democrats say Mr. Olson misled the committee and had an active role in the so-called "Arkansas Project," a series of investigative articles on scandals of the Clinton administration before the presidents impeachment in 1998.
Mr. Olson maintains he was not involved in the editorial process, and numerous magazine employees have corroborated that he was not involved.
Mr. Olson, a Washington constitutional lawyer, said he did legal work for the magazine and is a social friend of the journals editor in chief, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
However, one former reporter who wrote several early prominent articles on the Clinton scandals for the magazine, David Brock, contradicted Mr. Olsons story in an article in The Washington Post last week.
Mr. Hatch said he has reviewed the testimony and determined there were no inconsistencies. Further investigations demanded by Democrats are "unwarranted given the evidence already on the record," Mr. Hatch said.
"Now I have seen no — let me repeat, no — evidence suggesting this testimony is not accurate," Mr. Hatch said.
"Mr. Olson responded to questions about these issues at this hearing and in three sets of written questions — each time his answers have been clear and consistent," he said.
"Who … cares about the 'Arkan-sas project?" Mr. Hatch said after the vote.
Mr. Olson successfully represented Mr. Bush before the U.S. Supreme Court during the monthlong legal battle over Floridas electoral votes during last years postelection debacle. He has also done legal work for former President Ronald Reagan and is strongly supported by conservatives.
While most Democrats say their concern is based strictly on Mr. Olsons role in the journalistic endeavor, some have openly admitted that their opposition is based on his conservative credentials.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware said Mr. Olsons views are "pretty hard-edged."
"He doesnt fit the bill," Mr. Biden said.
At least one Republican was willing to support a bipartisan inquiry to clear Mr. Olsons name.
Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said he did not want any "clouds" over Mr. Olsons good name.
"Im prepared to support an investigation if there is something to investigate … but so far all we have heard is a smear campaign on the man," Mr. Specter said.
Democrats suggested Mr. Olson may have underplayed his involvement with the Clinton investigations to avoid angering Democrats.
But the unified rejection by Democrats was "not about payback, but whether we get clearer answers," said Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat.


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