- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

Republicans are beginning to go public with complaints that President Bush surrendered an important presidential prerogative when he gave Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer unprecedented veto power over prospective federal judicial candidates from California.
"As state chairman, I can't sit still and see Boxer and Feinstein pre-selecting federal judges when we have a Republican in the White House. That's not what I came here to do," said Shawn Steel, the elected chairman of the California Republican Party.
A major complaint about the bipartisan judicial-selection deal worked out with the two Democratic senators is that Mr. Bush's negotiator, California investor Gerald L. Parsky, got nothing in return.
"The deal already has crashed and burned," a prominent Republican House member from California said privately. "It's discriminating against highly qualified candidates because they supported Bush for president or contributed to the campaign of a Republican for Congress."
But Mr. Parsky, a defender of the bipartisan committee system, says he is doing only what the president and White House Counsel Al Gonzales asked him to do. "Some of the critics don't know the facts," Mr. Parsky said.
White House defenders of the deal said its aim was to help smooth the judicial-appointment process by having the Senate Judiciary Committee hold more hearings and vote on more Bush nominees and do so more quickly than in previous administrations.
Senate tradition allows a senator to veto or "blue slip" any federal judicial nominee for courts in his or her state. The Bush White House said its plan would give the two California senators an incentive not to "blue slip," by giving them a voice in the selection.
Under the year-old agreement, dubbed "the Parsky Commission," the White House gives the two Democratic senators power to block the White House from even seeing the names of candidates for the eight federal district judgeships in California.
Critics complain that Democrats chosen by the state's two senators to sit on the unique selection commission decide what names among applicants for judgeships will be forwarded to the White House. These critics claim that under the agreement, the White House may make nominations for Senate approval only from that list of names.
Critics also claim that when the White House has attempted to suggest a candidate of its own, the Democrats on the Parsky commission have gotten their backs up.
Mr. Parsky, a member of the state party board of directors which last year stripped Mr. Steel of some powers that normally accrue to the party chairman, said the bipartisan commission was not his proposal, but that of White House chief strategist Karl Rove and Mr. Gonzales.
"They researched precedent and found there was none for selecting federal judgeships when a state has no U.S. senator or governor" of the president's party, Mr. Parsky said.
Mr. Gonzales talked with Mrs. Feinstein first and one suggestion that emerged was that there be two Republican names forwarded to the White House for every Democrat name, according to a Republican close to the process.
Instead, Mr. Gonzales and Mrs. Feinstein came up with the idea of four committees, each representing one of the four U.S. district courts in California. Mr. Parsky and the White House would decide on the three Republicans to serve on each committee and Mrs. Feinstein and Mrs. Boxer would appoint the three Democratic members. Mr. Parsky further said he got the approval of the White House at every step of the way.
"I only pass on people who satisfy the president's judicial philosophy," Mr. Parsky said.
He said he and Sen. Feinstein instructed the committees not to ask "litmus test" questions, but at least two persons who appeared before the committees told The Washington Times they had been asked by the Democratic members for views on issues, including whether they would support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Both of these candidates say they were nixed by the Democrats on the committee and so their names never went to the White House for consideration.
But Mr. Parsky said he knew of only one such incident and that he immediately informed Mrs. Feinstein and told the committee involved that such conduct was not permissible.

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