- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

Senate Democrats' rejection of Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. for a federal appeals court seat could cost the party governorships and seats in Congress, said Sen. Zell Miller.
"Politically, this action may very well elect a Republican governor in Mississippi, and it will certainly make it even more difficult for Democratic candidates to be successful in the South," the Georgia Democrat said Thursday.
President Bush had nominated Judge Pickering, of the federal district court in Mississippi, for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 on Thursday not to send his nomination to the Senate floor. All 10 Democrats on the committee voted against the nomination, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the nomination was dead.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and longtime friend of Judge Pickering, retaliated yesterday by scuttling the committee's request for $1.5 million in additional funds and also promised to block the nomination of one of Mr. Daschle's aides to a position on the Federal Communications Commission.
Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and ranking Republican member Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah made the funding request in a Feb. 27 letter. They said additional money was needed to conduct important oversight of key agencies, like the FBI, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Lott said a joint House-Senate investigation was under way. Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the senator, said Mr. Lott "believes this funding should not be allocated because the funding could potentially be used to block judicial nominations." The funds would have to be approved by leaders of both parties, and Mr. Lott's lack of support effectively has killed it.
David Carle, spokesman for Mr. Leahy, said the requested funds, which would be divided evenly between both parties on the committee, does not overlap with the House-Senate investigation and has "everything to do with the committee's added oversight responsibilities to make sure that agencies like the FBI and the INS are doing their jobs skillfully as the war on terrorism unfolds."
On the FCC nomination, Mr. Lott said his decision was not related to the Pickering vote. But an aide to Mr. Daschle said it is "awfully convenient timing" and a senior Republican aide said these retaliatory moves are just the beginning: "These initiatives will continue and the Daisy Cutters are coming."
Mr. Daschle responded yesterday to Mr. Lott's anger over the Pickering nomination by saying: "I think they would want our cooperation on moving other nominations and other legislation. The threat could easily backfire and in many ways hurt their own agenda."
Observers predicted immediate fallout in Mississippi, where redistricting has cast Rep. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat, in the same district as Judge Pickering's son, Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr.
"It underscores what somebody like Shows doesn't want the people back home to ever grasp about the national Democratic Party, and the fact that so often they're voting in the interests of the national Democratic Party and not conservative Mississippi values," said Henry Barbour, Mr. Pickering's campaign manager.
Brian Perry, editor of MagnoliaReport.com, which tracks Mississippi politics, said the Pickering issue will become a litmus tests for the state's conservative voters.
"In the past Republicans have had a hard time tying local so-called conservative Democrats to the national Democratic Party," he said. "Now I think they'll be able to say the so-called conservative Democrats here are fueling the power of [Democratic Party] people in Washington" who defeated Judge Pickering's nomination.
But Mr. Shows' campaign manager, Barry Butler, said the congressman did all he could for Judge Pickering: "I really don't think there's going to be a backlash we came out in support of Judge Pickering, and that's really all we can do."


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