- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The confirmation process for President Bush's judicial nominees in the Democrat-controlled Senate has taken on a sense of "McCarthyism," a leading Senate Republican said yesterday.
"Are you now or have you ever been a conservative or a member of a conservative organization?" said Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in an interview, mimicking Sen. Joseph McCarthy's standard line for hunting communists in government in the early 1950s. "That's it; you are disqualified. It's just a different C word."
Republicans charge that Judge D. Brooks Smith of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush's nominee for a federal 3rd Circuit Appeals Court seat, is the next target for defeat by Senate Democrats.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Delaware Democrat, said he is maintaining an open mind in regards to Judge Smith's confirmation. But Mr. Biden has vowed to kill the nomination if Judge Smith is not completely forthcoming in answers to questions from Senate Democrats during his confirmation process.
"I will do everything in my power to defeat you, including moving to the Senate floor to take action I've never taken in my life as a United States senator: a filibuster," Mr. Biden said during Judge Smith's confirmation hearing Feb. 26.
In the 15 months he has been in the White House, Mr. Bush has nominated 29 circuit court judges, and seven have been confirmed. By comparison, in their first two years in office, President Clinton nominated 22 circuit judges with 19 confirmed, President George Bush nominated 23 circuit judges with 22 confirmed, and President Reagan nominated 20 circuit judges with 19 confirmed.
Calls to the Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, were not returned.
Before leaving for the Easter recess, Mr. Leahy defended the committee's record on the confirmation process.
"We are moving forward as quickly as we can, and I will continue to do that," Mr. Leahy said.
"No matter what is said on the other side, no matter how much things are taken out of context, no matter how much fiction we hear on the floor from that side, I will move them forward," Mr. Leahy said.
The bruising confirmation process of failed Appeals Court nominee Judge Charles W. Pickering is a preview of what is in store for other conservative members of the bench, Republicans said.
"They are on a witch hunt," Mr. Santorum said, referring to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I am sure that with every nominee who has any kind of conservative credentials, [Democrats] will make a big issue of it. The question is, how many Democrats on the committee will bite?" Mr. Santorum said.
A source close to the Smith confirmation proceedings said that despite the judge's popularity and widespread support in his home state of Pennsylvania, Democrats are intent on blocking or defeating the confirmation.
"This is about George Bush and putting Republicans on the bench. It doesn't make any difference who you are; they are going to tailor these things to [hurt] each nominee," the source said.
Mr. Santorum said that in an environment "other than the Leahy jihad," Judge Smith would be approved.
The pace of hearings and confirmation votes has angered many Republicans. The Senate has confirmed 42 nominees, and 56 nominations are still pending. Only two hearings have been held on the pending nominations, according to the Justice Department's office of legal policy.
"Almost a year has passed, and President Bush's first eight circuit court nominees have not even received the courtesy of a hearing," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
"All we are asking for is that the Senate Judiciary Committee provide fair treatment for these experienced and qualified individuals, and that clearly is not happening," Mr. Lott said.
Democrats are questioning Judge Smith's judicial ethics and recusal from a fraud case. People for the American Way, which led the effort to defeat Judge Pickering, have questioned Judge Smith's record on states' rights, civil rights, the environment and consumer protection.
Liberal groups that oppose conservative nominees became part of the debate over Judge Pickering, and Republicans say they will continue to highlight that influence in other nomination fights.


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