- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved two Democrat-opposed judicial nominees, including one whose delay the nation's oldest senator, Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, had called a personal affront.
"It was the right thing to do and I want to compliment my colleagues on the other side for as much cooperation as they gave," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said after the panel approved by voice vote the nomination of District Judge Dennis Shedd to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which included Mr. Thurmond's home state of South Carolina.
The committee also approved, by voice vote, Michael W. McConnell to the 10th Circuit Court. Mr. McConnell, a law professor, is from Mr. Hatch's home state.
Mr. Hatch who will lead the panel next year called the vote "a gesture of good will that has meant a great deal to me personally because of my love for Senator Thurmond and my respect for Dennis Shedd."
He called Mr. McConnell a "brilliant, marvelous lawyer" and "one of the finest nominees we've ever had before this committee."
Mr. Thurmond, who will turn 100 on Dec. 5, sat quietly through the entire committee meeting but issued a lengthy statement regarding Judge Shedd.
"Thank you very much for moving the nomination," it read in part. "He was a loyal employee of mine for ten years and is very deserving of this high honor."
President Bush nominated Judge Shedd to the circuit court position on May 9, 2001. Judge Shedd was Mr. Thurmond's chief of staff when the elder statesman was Judiciary Committee chairman.
The Judiciary Committee traditionally approves former staffers and nominees supported by former chairmen, but Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, took the Shedd nomination off the committee agenda in October. The move angered Republicans, who called it a direct slight, and prompted Mr. Thurmond to make what likely would be his last floor speech.
Mr. Leahy said he always intended to bring the nomination before the panel, and delayed it in October only because he knew it would spark contentious debate that would have held up action on 17 other nominations.
"I told them this before that we would do it that way if they had the votes to get him out, we'd allow it," he said, adding that Republicans "misstated" his position.
The nomination was approved by voice vote. All panel Democrats except for Mr. Leahy and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware asked that the record reflect they would have voted "no" if the roll had been called.
Mr. Leahy plans to vote against the Shedd nomination on the Senate floor, and his staff has distributed a large stack of letters from groups opposing the nomination, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Democrats say Judge Shedd is too conservative, has a poor record on civil rights issues and rarely favors those who claim employment discrimination.
Mr. McConnell's nomination garnered little debate yesterday, even though liberal interest groups said he held "extreme" conservative views on abortion, separation of church and state and anti-discrimination laws.
His nomination passed by voice vote. Among Democrats, Mr. Leahy, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California openly supported it, while Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois openly opposed it.
Some said Democrats allowed the two nominations to proceed, in part, because Republicans took back the Senate in last week's midterm elections.
"The election sent a very strong message that President Bush's judicial nominees are important to the American people," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. "We're hopeful today's action signals the beginning of a fast-track approach to approving President Bush's nominees."
Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, said that while the vote was "not unexpected," it was "deeply disappointing."
The nominations are expected to reach the Senate floor before adjournment, although the schedule is not clear, said Ranit Schmeltzer, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.


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