- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Senate Republicans will use the weeks leading up to May 9 to make a concerted push for Democrats to approve more of President Bush's judicial nominations, Sen. Mitch McConnell said yesterday.
May 9 marks the one-year anniversary of Mr. Bush's first set of judicial nominees. Of the 11 names he sent to the Senate at the time, eight had not received hearings. Of the three who had hearings and were confirmed, two were Clinton administration appointees whom Mr. Bush renominated.
Senate Republicans have been pressing Democrats to act more quickly, but Mr. McConnell says he wants Mr. Bush to do more in the public relations battle.
"He's going to talk about it some; I hope he'll talk about it more," Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told an audience at the Heritage Foundation yesterday. "I would love to see the president address this issue more often. I am hoping he or another significant administration official will do that on May 9."
Of Mr. Bush's 29 circuit court nominations, 11 have had hearings in the Judiciary Committee and 10 have been confirmed. Those rates to date are far below the hearing and confirmation rates in the first two years for the last four presidents.
Democrats say those numbers are misleading because eight months remain in this Congress and it's not fair to compare the confirmation rate so far to those of complete two-year sessions.
They also say they have been on a record-breaking pace of confirmations since assuming control of the Senate in May.
"I think we're actually now going to break the Bush record, the first Bush administration's record in the first year, by what we do this week. So we will then have broken the records of Reagan, Bush and Clinton with regard to the number of judges confirmed in the first year," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said last week.
Republicans counter that Democrats have created new requirements for potential judges going so far as to review their bodies of unpublished opinions.
If the Democrats' approach doesn't change, Mr. McConnell said, it will be "a cold day in hell before there will be any new abortion-rights judges when my party regains control of the Senate. You can't go down that path. It's mutually assured destruction."
But he said Republicans' immediate options are limited.
The president could use his power to appoint judges during a congressional recess, Mr. McConnell said, and Republicans could threaten to halt action in the Senate until the judicial nomination process is revised. But Republicans have made that threat before without carrying through on it.
One problem for Republicans is that they can't bring electoral pressure on Democrats. Of the Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats, only Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware is up for re-election this year, and he is considered a safe bet to win.
In order to broaden the culpability of Democrats, Mr. McConnell said, he wants the entire Senate to vote on "sense of the Senate" resolutions to force members to approve or disapprove of the committee's procedural methods.
"I'm in favor of any tactic that broadens this to the full Senate because then everybody ends up having some ownership of the tactic," he said.


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