- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

The Nov. 5 election produced two clear messages for judicial appointments. First, Americans rejected the unprecedented leftist obstruction campaign against President Bush's nominees. Second, leftists will continue that campaign.
Make no mistake, this election produced a virtual Republican landslide. The president's party has gained Senate seats in the midterm election just four times since direct Senate elections were introduced in 1914. And since 1914, the president's party has never won Senate control in his first midterm. Ever.
And make no mistake, the obstruction campaign against Mr. Bush's judicial nominees was on the ballot. Leftist groups and Senate Democrats have for two years waged a very public, in-your-face, high-stakes campaign to block the appointment of judges who will merely follow the law and leave the politics to the people.
Leading political and academic leftists huddled with Senate Democrats at their spring 2001 retreat, strategizing about changing the judicial confirmation rules. Sen. Charles Schumer chaired an unprecedented series of hearings, starring those same leftists, on such things as using ideological litmus tests to defeat Bush nominees. For the first time in a dozen years, on orders from their leftist puppeteers, Senate Democrats used the Judiciary Committee to defeat nominees.
Mr. Bush made 45 percent more appeals court nominations than his three predecessors, with a confirmation rate that was 55 percent less. The Senate has confirmed 80 judges in Mr. Bush's first two years, compared to 129 for President Clinton.
One of many statistical stunts by leftists such as Ralph Neas of People for the American Way compares confirmations since July 2001, when Democrats took over Senate control, with previous periods beginning in January, when he knows confirmation activity is low. Liars figure and figures lie; comparing apples and Silly Putty won't fool anyone. Democrats confirmed 80 Bush judges from July 2001 through October 2002, while Republicans confirmed 93 Clinton judges from July 1997 through October 1998, the comparable period at the beginning of the previous presidential term.
The point is that this was a very aggressive, very public, very ideological campaign against Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. And the party leading the assault lost big. If there is a mandate from a midterm election, this is it.
Ending the politics of judicial nominee destruction will, of course, mean fair and prompt hearings, and votes in the Judiciary Committee and full Senate. But it also requires countering the guerrilla tactics that leftists will now use. Those tactics mean the "F" word: filibuster.
True, Democratic leaders denounced nominee filibusters, which require 60 rather than 51 votes to approve a nominee, under Mr. Clinton. In a June 1995 floor speech, once-and-future-Minority-Leader Tom Daschle opposed nominee filibusters, saying "the question is one of fairness. It is a question of fairness. [T]he issue is one of fairness. It is a question of fairness." Get the point?
On the Judiciary Committee, soon-to-be-ranking-member Patrick Leahy said in September 1999 that "I [have taken] the floor on occasion to oppose filibusters to hold [nominees] up and believe that we should have a vote up or down."
Good idea. Judiciary Committee member Edward Kennedy issued this challenge: "Do not hide behind this [filibuster] procedure. Have the guts to come out and vote up or down … And once and for all, put behind us this filibuster procedure on nominations." He thundered, "Senators who feel strongly about the issue of fairness should vote [against filibusters], even if they intend to vote against the nomination itself. It is wrong to filibuster [nominations], and senators who believe in fairness will not let a minority of the Senate deny [a] vote by the entire Senate." Rah, rah.
New-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg called nominee filibusters "pitiful," saying filibusters undermine the "fairness of the system." He demanded "a straight up-or-down vote … without threats of a filibuster." Now-on-the-outside-looking-in Sen. James Jeffords called nominee filibusters an "indefensible" way to "prevent or even avoid having the opportunity to vote." And fairness-for-all Sen. Barbara Boxer offered this insightful analysis: "I am very disheartened and, frankly, disgusted … I am disheartened … I take offense at it. I apologize … This is about politics. Politics of the worst sort. This is about pressure. Pressure of the worst sort … I am appalled … My friends, a foul situation has developed in this Senate."
Yet, before they denounced filibusters against Democratic nominees, Senate Democrats used them against Republican nominees. In the 1980s, Democrats filibustered Republican nominees to all three levels of the federal judiciary. And more than three times as many Democrats as Republicans vote to continue their nominee filibusters. These people are serious.
Leftists rolled the dice and put their nominee-obstruction campaign on the ballot and it lost. The GOP now has the opportunity to solve the judicial vacancy crisis by dropping the confirmation blockade, and fairly and efficiently processing Mr. Bush's nominees. Seizing the day will require holding Senate Democrats to their words and preventing them from repeating their deeds.

Thomas L. Jipping is a senior fellow in legal studies at Concerned Women for America.

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