- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

The nearly two-year deadlock over President Bush's judicial and political nominees has come to an end with Republicans gaining control of the Senate.
Democrats have agreed to move some nominees during the lame-duck session that begins today, and Republicans are prepared to move nominees previously rejected by Democrats as "too conservative" when the GOP takes control of the Senate in January.
"We have 81 nominations pending," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, referring to nonjudicial positions as well. "I'd like very much to clear the calendar before the end of the year."
That number includes 16 district judges and one circuit judge, and Republicans expect all will be approved. The Judiciary Committee has been at a standstill over a handful of judges Democrats say are too conservative to sit on the bench.
Those include District Judge Charles Pickering Jr. of Louisiana (nominated to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals), Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit Court of Appeals), District Judge Dennis Shedd (4th Circuit Court of Appeals), and Miguel Estrada (D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals).
"With the Senate in Republican hands, we will move decisively to confirm Judge Pickering, who unfortunately was bottled up in Democrat partisanship, and we will work on confirming other nominees as soon as possible," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the incoming Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
Mr. Daschle conceded the nomination process has been "contentious."
"But I would say I would emphasize that it really is the exception rather than the rule," Mr. Daschle said.
"You look at the record number of judicial nominations that we have confirmed, and that's the story. I mean, obviously the contentious ones generate the news, and that's what gives people the impression that less is getting done than is the fact," Mr. Daschle said.
"The fact is that 81 judges have been confirmed. There are 17 on the calendar. That's almost 100 nominations confirmed for the district and circuit court judgeships in this country. That is a remarkable record. And I don't in any way apologize for that. I'm very proud of that," Mr. Daschle said.
Republicans argue that the holdup is not over district judges, but circuit judges; 14 have been confirmed and 23 are pending.
Mr. Bush hammered the issue of nominees being blocked by Democrats in a final campaign swing for Senate Republicans, which they credit with helping to win South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Minnesota.
"Clearly, it did not help the Democrats' chances of either retaining control or gaining control of the Senate," Mr. Bonjean said. "It backfired completely."
The last bruising battle one month before the election was over Judge Shedd, a former Judiciary Committee staffer for Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican.
In his final floor speech, Mr. Thurmond, 99, accused Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, of breaking a promise to allow a committee vote this year.
"I have never been treated in such a manner," Mr. Thurmond said.
Mr. Leahy has scheduled a committee meeting for Thursday, and Republicans believe Mr. Leahy will allow a vote on Judge Shedd then.
To date, the Senate has confirmed 66 district court nominees presented by Mr. Bush and 23 district judgeship nominations are pending.
In his first two years in office, President Clinton nominated 22 circuit judges, with 19 confirmed, and 119 district judges, with 108 confirmed. The elder President Bush nominated 23 circuit judges, with 22 confirmed, and 52 district judges, with 48 confirmed. President Reagan nominated 20 circuit judges, with 19 confirmed, and 69 district judges, all of whom were confirmed.

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