- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

The oldest senator in the nation's history yesterday made what will surely be his final floor speech to denounce a Democratic committee chairman who he said broke a promise to hold a vote on a judicial nominee.
"In 48 years in the Senate," said Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who came to the Senate as a Democrat and who will leave as a Republican, "I have never been treated in such a manner."
Standing before more than 30 Republican lawmakers and a dozen Democrats, Mr. Thurmond chided Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy for the "outrageous" treatment of U.S. District Judge Dennis Shedd, nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"I took you at your word," Mr. Thurmond said in comments directed at Mr. Leahy, who was not present.
Mr. Thurmond, 99, who once could speak for hours in a filibuster, holding the Senate hostage in a thick, lowland accent that sometimes only Ernest F. Hollings, his Democratic colleague from South Carolina, could clearly understand, now rarely speaks, even in committee hearings.
Mr. Thurmond's anger yesterday was echoed by fellow Senate Republicans and a "madder than hell" President Bush, who say the refusal to vote on Judge Shedd, a one-time Thurmond aide, is a direct slap at the oldest person ever to serve in Congress.
"It's his last request in the Senate," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.
Mr. Hatch shouted on the Senate floor that Judge Shedd "was sponsored by one of the most dignified and important senators in the history of this body" and that all Republicans want is "just a stinking, solitary vote."
Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said he hoped "the Senate will change hands next year so we can correct some of these terrible injustices."
As the 107th session comes to a close, the Senate has confirmed 14 circuit and 66 district court nominees presented by President Bush. Eighteen circuit 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 first 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.
In percentage terms overall, the current Senate has confirmed only 51 percent of Mr. Bush's nominations, against 90 percent of Mr. Clinton's, 93 percent of the elder Mr. Bush's and 99 percent of Mr. Reagan's.
At the White House after the speech, Mr. Thurmond and other Republicans spoke about the matter with Mr. Bush, who was described by Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, as being "madder than hell."
The vote on Judge Shedd was originally set for Thursday but postponed until Tuesday, then canceled Monday night. Republicans say a committee rule requires that postponed nominees be taken up at the next meeting.
Judge Shedd was nominated May 9, 2001, and has been rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Association.
Said Mr. Thurmond: "On July 31, Chairman Leahy stated publicly, I repeat, publicly before the Judiciary Committee that we had reached a solution regarding Judge Shedd that would be satisfactory. I am hurt and disappointed at this egregious act of destructive politics."
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended the Vermont senator, saying Mr. Leahy's committee has done an "outstanding job."
"We understand that Senator Thurmond is disappointed that the Judiciary Committee was not able to proceed on Judge Shedd's nomination this week," Mr. Reid said.
Congress is expected to leave next week and no further business meetings for the committee have been scheduled, but a committee spokesman said it is Mr. Leahy's intention to hold a vote.
"We all have great respect for Senator Thurmond, and I know that the committee is working hard toward a committee vote on the Shedd nomination," said Mr. Reid. He said the vote was delayed because the nomination is opposed by civil rights organizations.
The committee released nearly 100 letters of opposition to Judge Shedd, who Republicans say receives wide support in his home state. Nearly every letter was from a special-interest group in Washington. There were letters of opposition from the South Carolina NAACP and from three South Carolina residents.
"Senators are taking those concerns seriously and being thoughtful and deliberate in reaching their own conclusions," Mr. Reid said.
Mr. Bush yesterday invited Republican lawmakers on the committee to the White House to discuss "the troubling developments" of Judge Shedd's confirmation, said spokesman Ari Fleischer. "Senator Leahy failed to uphold his commitment to Senator Strom Thurmond. This promise has been made to Senator Thurmond on several occasions.
"I think the problem lies on that side. I don't think this is a question of the president talking to the chairman of the committee. This is a question of the chairman of the committee doing what he told Senator Thurmond that he would do," said Mr. Fleischer.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide