- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

The contentious confirmation of District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will get its first test next week when the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on the nomination.
"Hopefully, this destructive political process will stop," Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr., Mississippi Republican and son of the embattled nominee said yesterday.
The Senate panel has held two confirmation hearings on Judge Pickering's nomination, the most recent on Feb. 7, when he was grilled on his pro-life stance and civil rights record.
Liberal organizations have tried to label Judge Pickering as a racist, but black leaders in Mississippi are vocally backing the nominee as a friend of their community. Supporters hope this will sway public opinion.
The vote is set for next Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, is Judge Pickering's leading supporter in the Senate.
Mr. Lott's spokesman raised the possibility of repercussions if the judge is not confirmed.
"Senator Lott believes that Mr. Pickering is extremely qualified, and if he is not confirmed, it will not help the relationship and there could be consequences to those actions," Lott spokesman Ron Bonjean said.
Republicans are concerned that dozens of extraneous questions forwarded to Judge Pickering by Democrats might delay the vote.
And if Democrats on the committee block the contentious nomination, Republicans would be forced to go through cumbersome procedures to force a vote on the Senate floor.
The full Senate can vote on a motion to discharge, which needs only a simple majority to pass, but a single senator can block the motion, triggering other procedures that can leave the nomination in limbo.
One senior Republican aide said there are possible Democrat swing votes on the committee, especially after the recent increased media attention, which has helped bolster support for Judge Pickering's nomination.
"If the vote were held right after the committee hearing, we would have lost, but the Democrats are getting pressure from their own press. We are better off today than we were a week ago," the aide said.
At least two Democrats have publicly stated they would vote for Judge Pickering in a full Senate vote: Zell Miller of Georgia and Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina. That would give Republicans the votes they need to win in an otherwise party-line vote.
Mr. Hollings dismissed charges that Judge Pickering had ties to segregationists. He told Roll Call, "We've got leaders in the Senate that used to be members of the Klan," an apparent reference to fellow Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan more than 50 years ago.
The younger Mr. Pickering said he hopes this week's congressional recess served as a cooling-off period.
The New York Times on Sunday carried a report from Laurel, Miss., that said: "Here on the streets of his small, largely black hometown, far from the bitterness of partisan agendas and position papers, Charles Pickering is a widely admired figure of a very different present."
Judge Pickering yesterday was given a distinguished-service award by his former state Senate colleagues, and he touched on race relations during his acceptance speech.
"If we are to make progress in promoting racial harmony, first and foremost, we as a society, young and old, black and white, must make a willful, genuine and meaningful commitment to better race relations," he said.
"It will not be easy. It will require a willingness to get involved and take a stand, and if necessary, to pay a price," Judge Pickering said.

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