- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

The Senate yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of President Bush's first judicial picks with Republicans demanding hearings on blocked nominees and Democrats steadfastly refusing to move any conservative candidate.

"Simply unconscionable," was how Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, described the delay for hearings and votes on eight of Mr. Bush's first 11 nominations.

Republican Senate leaders, flanked by representatives of nearly 50 special-interest groups, demanded that the Democrat-controlled Senate move the nominees. All wore "Remember Pickering" lapel stickers, a reference to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Charles W. Pickering, a Mississippi district judge. Democrats refused a Senate floor vote and killed Judge Pickering's nomination in committee earlier this year.

"My message today is we've got to stop the partisan politics," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

"We're sick of it, fed up with it. We would like to see fairness in the process, because when I was chairman, I was fair. This is just plain wrong," Mr. Hatch said.

Democrats countered with their own press conference and a Judiciary subcommittee hearing featuring "ghosts of nominations past" four Clinton nominees who did not receive hearings or votes when Republicans controlled the Senate.

"I can only see Republican complaints as an effort to bully Senate Democrats into rubber-stamping their right-wing judicial nominees," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, said he is concerned that some of Mr. Bush's nominees will act as "judicial activists" and not enforce the rights of "ordinary Americans."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who chaired the administrative oversight and courts subcommittee hearing yesterday, said only centrists need apply.

"When the president tells the nation that he intends to stock the courts with conservatives in the mold of Justices [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas, we have good reason to worry that the courts which are already hanging in the balance will be knocked right out of the mainstream," Mr. Schumer said.

C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel for President George Bush, told the committee that neither the president nor the Senate should impose litmus tests on nominees.

"The Senate should confirm a president's nominees if they are qualified, even if the Senate might not share a particular nominee's ideology," Mr. Gray said.

The Clinton appointees who testified about their personal delays also urged the Senate to hold hearings and votes quickly.

"It makes the point we've been trying to make all along that you hold hearings," responded Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.

The Senate has confirmed 47 district court nominees out of 69 submitted, and nine circuit court nominations out of 30 submitted.

Members of the Judiciary Committee later met with Mr. Bush at the White House, where the president urged them to put partisanship aside.

"This process has broken down; it has not served Democrats or Republicans," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

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