- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

A former Republican commissioner is expected to be reappointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a move that would bring partisan parity to the eight-member panel.
A Senate Republican source close to the commission said Russell Redenbaugh, whose term ended in December, was the only candidate for the post.
"Right now, it is only Redenbaugh who will fill that seat," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "And there has been some confusion as to who is to make that appointment. But I believe that there will be some movement soon."
The reappointment of Mr. Redenbaugh would create a 4-4 split between liberal- and conservative-leaning commission members, pending the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court in a legal dispute over one of the other seats.
That appeal involved last week's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which overturned a lower court and ruled that a Bush appointee legally held a disputed seat on the commission, which had been held by a liberal.
Peter Kirsanow, a black conservative labor lawyer from Cleveland, was to replace Victoria Wilson, who was appointed by President Clinton in 2000 to serve out an unexpired term.
Leon Friedman, Miss Wilson's attorney, yesterday said he will file a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that the justices overturn last week's federal court decision. Under the writ, four of the nine justices must agree that the case raises a federal question.
A Redenbaugh reappointment would give hope to Republicans who had small voice and almost zero sway on documents and studies released by the commission for the past three years.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, is to make the crucial appointment in accord with congressional courtesy. Although the choice normally would be the responsibility of Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat made the last congressional appointment, of Democrat Elsie Meeks in 1999.
The law requires that Congress' four appointments be split evenly between House and Senate choices, and that the parties also alternate, in order to have ideological equality.
Some people close to the commission feared that Mr. Lott would cede his appointment in some form of political exchange, perhaps for a say on a higher appointment. Those individuals also have complained of unreturned calls to Mr. Lott's office.
"This situation really is on the margin for civil rights policy," Mr. Redenbaugh said. "It really matters now, and I can't imagine Lott wanting to throw away a chance to make this commission 4-4."
Mr. Lott's office declined to comment.
While Republicans welcome an equal voice, Commissioner Christopher Edley Jr. said yesterday that the fractious court fight and ceaseless personal battles among commissioners have made for a troubled commission with a tenuous future.
With a 4-4 split, "I feel we will see more political theater and more, rather than less, ideological combat," said Mr. Edley, co-founder of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and a White House staffer under President Carter. "I have grave concerns about the continuing viability of the organization."
Abigail Thernstrom, who was at one point the only other conservative on the commission besides Mr. Redenbaugh, said yesterday that the 4-4 political split would offer something that hadn't been accomplished in some time.
"There will be serious debate on civil rights issues," Mrs. Thernstrom said. "There won't be just over and over, like a broken record, 'two nations, one black, one white, separate and unequal.' That's all the commission has had to say."


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