- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

Today's Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. will illustrate whether Congress has "a deep respect for the Constitution" and for the president's "right and responsibility to nominate qualified judges," President Bush said yesterday.
"We now face a situation in which a handful of United States senators on one committee have made it clear that they will block nominees, even highly qualified, well-respected nominees, who do not share the senators' view of the bench, of the federal courts," Mr. Bush said in a White House press conference.
"They seek to undermine the nominations of candidates who agree with my philosophy that judges should interpret the law, not try to make law from the bench. And because these senators fear the outcome of a fair vote in the full Senate, they're using tactics of delay."
The president said his nominee to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit "deserves" a vote by the full Senate. But while today's vote "is about one man," he said, "a much larger principle is also at stake."
"Under our Constitution, the president has the right and responsibility to nominate qualified judges, and the legislative branch has the responsibility to vote on them in a fair and timely manner. This process determines the quality of justice in America, and it demands that both the president and Senate act with care and integrity, with wisdom and deep respect for the Constitution," Mr. Bush said.
The president lamented "a disturbing pattern where too often, judicial confirmations are being turned into ideological battles that delay justice and hurt our democracy."
The standoff has caused what Mr. Bush called a "vacancy crisis in the federal judiciary."
The president has nominated 92 "highly respected individuals" to serve as federal judges, but the Senate has confirmed just 40 and only seven of the 29 nominees to the circuit courts.
"This is unacceptable. It is a bad record for the Senate," he said. "The Senate has an obligation to provide fair hearings and prompt votes to all nominees, no matter who controls the Senate or who controls the White House."
Those now blocking a full Senate vote "are standing in the way of justice," Mr. Bush said. "This is wrong, and the American people deserve better."
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, applauded the president's strong statement of support for Judge Pickering and noted that a majority of senators now appear ready to approve the nomination in a floor vote.
"Many Senate Democrats have tried to distort the record of a courageous public servant with unwarranted charges of racial insensitivity. If that isn't shameful enough, now Judge Pickering watches helplessly while a clear minority of the Senate frustrates a nomination that appears to have majority support. Something has gone terribly wrong."
But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman said "the Pickering nomination fails the president's own standard of wanting nominees who will enforce instead of interpret the law."
"Judge Pickering repeatedly injects his own opinions into his decisions on issues ranging from employment discrimination to voting rights. Republicans, not Democrats, have delayed action on this nomination twice," Mr. Leahy said.
All 10 Democrats on the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to vote against Judge Pickering today, but the Capitol Hill journal Roll Call reported yesterday that Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, had became the third Democrat to publicly back the nomination. He joined Sens. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Zell Miller of Georgia.
All 49 Republicans are expected to back Judge Pickering's nomination if it ever reaches the Senate floor.


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