- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

The White House met with Republicans on Capitol Hill yesterday to plot a strategy to push President Bush's judicial nominees through the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of President Bush's submission of his first list of 11 judicial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. Of those circuit court nominees, eight have had no committee hearings or votes.
Democrats and Republicans are locked in a battle over which party has been treated worse by the other in the past, with Republicans charging Democrats are manipulating numbers of past judges approved and even a calendar year.
Republicans say they will use the anniversary to highlight the stall tactics by Democrats, which Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, called a "brutal form of payback that would be unprecedented in the history of the United States Senate."
Out of 99 judicial nominees submitted by Mr. Bush, the Senate has approved 52, nine of whom were circuit court nominees. All circuit court nominees are rated "qualified" or "well qualified" by the American Bar Association, which Democrats insisted be part of the judicial review process.
There are 89 vacancies and 47 nominees pending before the Senate 38 are considered judicial emergencies by the Justice Department.
Mr. Kyl criticized Democrats for refusing to give the nominees a hearing "because somebody is peeved at what might have occurred before."
Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Karl Rove, senior White House political adviser, met with the Senate Republicans during their weekly luncheon, and told them House Republicans, led by Virginia's Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, will also be joining the fray.
Republicans also hope to spin a Judiciary subcommittee hearing tomorrow morning to their advantage.
"The White House, I'm convinced, is confident and bullish and determined to push this issue, as we are in the Senate," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican.
"We're geared up, and we're going to have a fight over this make my day. If this is the ground they want to fight on, let's go," Mr. Sessions said.
The hearing tomorrow focuses on four former Clinton nominees who did not receive hearings or confirmation votes. The title for the session is "Ghosts of Nominations Past: Setting the Record Straight."
Republicans say they will counter with testimony from C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel to the first President Bush.
Republicans say the vacancy rate when President Clinton left office is much lower than when the term ended for the first President Bush. There were 97 vacancies when Mr. Bush left office with 54 expired nominations, compared with 67 vacancies for Mr. Clinton and 41 expired nominations.
Democrats say they passed more nominees in 10 months than Republicans did when they controlled the Senate during the first year of other presidential terms.
"After 10 months of Senate control, Democrats are well ahead of where Republicans, when the situation was reversed, were at the 10-month point of the previous three Congresses," said a statement released from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office last week.
But Republicans say the Democrats are manipulating the statistics, claiming credit for approving all 52 nominees of George W. Bush. Yet Democrats took control of the Senate only in June after Sen. James M. Jeffords switched from the Republican Party and gave them a one-vote majority.
Mr. Sessions said Democrats are "obfuscating" the standoff by citing misleading and irrelevant statistics, "to the point where anybody who has been here for very long realizes we are in a major slowdown."
Added Mr. Kyl: "The one statistic that I would ask you to bear in mind is that it's been now a year and these eight circuit court nominees haven't even had the courtesy of a hearing."

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