- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

Key Senate Republicans are defending a White House deal cut with two Democratic senators from California to select President Bush's district judge nominees from their state.
"They will have to work with the commission, I don't think there's any question about that," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"But [the White House] still reserves the right to not take anybody they don't accept," Mr. Hatch said.
California conservatives are angry about the agreement with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, which they say gives the Democrats unprecedented veto power over prospective nominees to the federal bench.
The United States Justice Foundation last week filed suit against the two senators to block the commission from holding secret meetings to vote on the potential nominees.
"There is a lot of controversy over it because no one wants every state with two Democrats demanding the same thing," Mr. Hatch said.
A rule set by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Judiciary Committee chairman and Vermont Democrat, already gives home-state senators "blue slip" veto power. If a senator does not sign off on a nominee by returning the slip, nominations are blocked automatically.
"Leahy has taken the position that any senator who doesn't return a blue slip ends the candidate's opportunity, so as a practical matter, the administration doesn't have a lot of leeway," Mr. Hatch said.
Had the White House extended the agreement to include circuit judges, Mr. Hatch said, he would be "raising heck."
"The White House should reserve its right to pick whoever it wants to from the circuit standpoint. Every White House I know of has reserved that right, and this White House should, too," Mr. Hatch said.
However, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the president has options besides the commission.
"There are other ways he can get his judges passed; he did not have to agree to this unprecedented agreement," Mr. Sessions said.
"He shouldn't hesitate to walk away from it if he's not happy with it. If he thinks it's going to work and he feels comfortable with it, I'm not going to criticize him for trying," Mr. Sessions said.
"Maybe it will bring harmony instead of a fuss," Mr. Sessions said.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and committee member, said he used a similar process during the Clinton administration.
"I had the good fortune of being able to work closely with the people at the Clinton White House and it worked pretty well," Mr. Kyl said.
However, Mr. Kyl and Republican Sen. John McCain included the one Democrat in the Arizona House delegation in the selection process, and said the same should be done in California.
"Republicans in the delegation need to have some say in this, even if they are in the House of Representatives that was the deal I struck," Mr. Kyl said.
Rep. John T. Doolittle, California Republican, says they have been excluded from the commission, created by Republican investor Gerald L. Parsky.
"The Parsky Commission is not working," Mr. Doolittle said.
The two senators appointed 12 Democrats, and Mr. Parsky selected 12 Republicans.
The White House says the deal gives the senators an incentive to not block the nominations, and Mr. Hatch suggested that Senate Republicans would block any unqualified nominees.
"It works both ways," he said.


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