- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

The percentage of President Bush's judicial confirmations is significantly lower than previous administrations, according to a nonpartisan congressional report.

The survey by the Congressional Research Service reports that Mr. Bush has put forward 64 district and circuit court nominations since May, but only 18 have been approved by the full Senate a confirmation rate of 28 percent.

"It's the slowest in memory when you look at confirmation rates," said Tom Jipping, judicial selection monitoring project director for the Free Congress Foundation.

The Judiciary Committee approved nine judges yesterday and a full vote is expected before the Senate adjourns. That would bring the final number to 27 confirmations.

President Clinton nominated 47 judges his first year and 27 were approved a confirmation rate of 57 percent.

During the entire Clinton administration 374 judges were confirmed just five judges shy of a record set by President Reagan. When Mr. Clinton left office, 41 nominations had not been acted on by the Senate.

In his first year, President George Bush, father of the current president, nominated 24 judges, of which 15 were confirmed a 62 percentage rate. Mr. Reagan saw 41 of his 45 nominations approved his first year, a confirmation rate of 91 percent.

"This Senate has more to choose from but is confirming less than any Senate in 20 years," Mr. Jipping said.

Mr. Jipping said the Democrats want to keep courts in the hands of activist, liberal judges.

"The longer they can keep Bush's judges off the bench, the more mischief those liberal activist judges can make," Mr. Jipping said.

Republicans say Mr. Bush's nominees are being blocked almost wholesale based on ideology and they are alarmed by the vacancy rate on federal benches throughout the country.

"When you have over 100 vacancies, and 38 of them are considered emergency situations, you know you are in real trouble," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking Judiciary Committee member.

"I would say it's a disaster right now," Mr. Hatch said.

Democrats counter that hearings and confirmations are proceeding in a quicker manner than when Republicans controlled the Senate.

"Democrats have done far better than Republicans in moving forward with hearings and nominations, and this has been anything but a typical year," said David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Carle said they have held "unprecedented" hearings during the August recess to move the process forward, and continued hearings after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the closure of the Hart Senate Office Building after anthrax was mailed to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. Mr. Leahy was also a target of an anthrax-tainted letter discovered in a quarantined bin of congressional mail.

"It's been a difficult situation with the office being closed, but despite that the record compares favorably with the Republican record of handling nominations in the Clinton administration," Mr. Carle said.

Since July, one month after Democrats took control of the Senate, nine hearings have been held for 28 nominees. Since the terrorist attacks, an additional five hearings have been held, Mr. Carle said.

When Republicans controlled the Senate for more than six years, no confirmation hearings were held during 34 of 76 months, Mr. Carle said.

However, Mr. Jipping said final confirmations, not the number of hearings, are what counts.

Additionally, emergency vacancies on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia are hampering enforcement of anti-terrorism legislation recently passed by Congress, Mr. Hatch said.

"The anti-terrorism bill depends almost exclusively on this circuit court, if we don't fill those positions they can't do the job," Mr. Hatch said. "For justice to occur, these emergencies have to be filled."

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