- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

President Bush today will meet with appellate nominee Judge Charles W. Pickering Jr. in the Oval Office and urge Senate Democrats to allow a floor vote to confirm the embattled nominee, according to White House officials.
The contentious nomination of the Mississippi district judge to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to fail tomorrow in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he will not bypass the committee and bring the nomination to the floor if it is defeated by the panel.
"The president feels very strongly that the Senate should appoint Judge Pickering to the Circuit Court," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
"There have been some Democrats who have said that on the floor they will vote for Judge Pickering it appears that he will have the votes to succeed. So the question really comes down to what will happen in the committee," Mr. Fleischer said.
Despite a favorable rating by the American Bar Association, Mr. Pickering has been characterized as a racist by liberal special interest groups in Washington. In his home state of Mississippi, however, Mr. Pickering is backed by many black leaders.
In a statement released yesterday by Concerned Women for America titled "Pickering to be lynched by Senate Judiciary Committee," Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, praised Judge Pickering's civil rights stance.
"When it wasn't popular for whites in Mississippi to stand up for fairness to blacks, Judge Pickering did," Mr. Evers said. "He went after the Ku Klux Klan in 1967, which was unheard of then. He did his best to get them put in jail. If he was a racist, if he's the kind of person all the liberals talk about, then why would he do that?"
Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, praised his party for standing firm against the nomination.
"The appointment of Charles Pickering to this powerful role would represent a significant step backward in our efforts to promote and protect civil rights and women's rights in this country," Mr. McAuliffe said. "His nomination is another example of the Bush administration paying lip service to the concerns of American women and minorities while promoting people and policies that betray his promises."
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and Judiciary Committee member, said yesterday he is appalled by the harsh and unfair attacks on Judge Pickering and urged his Democratic colleagues to let the majority of the Senate determine the fate of the nomination.
"With respect to judicial nominations, the Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate, not the advice and consent of the Judiciary Committee," Mr. Kyl said.
"Since a clear majority of the Senate is poised to confirm Judge Pickering, I implore my committee colleagues to honor the democratic process and discharge Judge Pickering's nomination regardless of their own vote on his confirmation."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and Judge Pickering's biggest supporter, said the nomination process has been "terrible."
"I think what has happened to Judge Pickering has been a very unfair characterization of a man that I know quite well, I've known for many years," Mr. Lott said.
Mr. Fleischer cited a March 19, 1997, quote from Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and former Judiciary Committee chairman, who said it should be up to the full Senate to confirm a nominee not the panel.
"My reading of the Constitution, though, is the Judiciary Committee is not mentioned in the Constitution. The Judiciary Committee is not mentioned. The Senate is," Mr. Biden said.
It is also not appropriate to hold hearings and then not allow a vote on the floor, Mr. Biden said. Judge Pickering was subjected to two hearings and harsh questioning from Democrats.


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