- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Senate Democrats yesterday spurned a judicial nominee backed by 99-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond his last request before retirement in what Republicans say is an unprecedented breach of protocol and violation of Judiciary Committee rules.
The South Carolina Republican, who rarely speaks during committee meetings, admonished Democrats for promising him a vote during this congressional session, which is coming to a close.
"I took you at your word," Mr. Thurmond said. "In 40 years, I have never been treated in such a manner. I am hurt and disappointed by your actions. I do not find your actions satisfactory."
Mr. Thurmond is wheelchair-bound and will turn 100 in December. He may not return to Capitol Hill after Congress adjourns next week for the November elections.
"This was a complete slap at Strom Thurmond in the last days of his tenure, I wouldn't do that to a bad dog," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
"I think it is a terrible slight to Senator Thurmond. I don't see how we can go home and feel good about this year. It's disdainful," Mr. Hatch said.
President Bush nominated District Judge Dennis Shedd on June 27, 2001, to the 4th Circuit Court, which includes Mr. Thurmond's home state of South Carolina. Judge Shedd was Mr. Thurmond's former chief of staff when the elder statesman chaired the Judiciary Committee. According to tradition, the committee approves former staffers and nominees supported by a former chairman.
Judge Shedd is also supported by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, and was rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Association for promotion to the circuit bench.
Yesterday's committee meeting was expected to be the last of this session, but Republicans issued a letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, citing the panel's rules and demanding that a special meeting be held. A Democratic committee staffer said he was not aware of the request and could not comment.
Judge Shedd's nomination was originally scheduled for consideration Thursday but was postponed until yesterday. Under committee rules, postponed nominees must be considered at the next business meeting. However, Mr. Leahy removed Judge Shedd from the schedule Monday night. Republicans retaliated by refusing to allow committees to meet for more than two hours yesterday morning.
Mr. Leahy said he pulled Judge Shedd from consideration Monday night because the nomination is contentious. But at the hearing yesterday, he said the limited amount of time allowed only one of two actions by the committee: the consideration of Judge Shedd's nomination, or 17 district judges which the panel did approve.
"I had to make a judgement. This is the decision," said Mr. Leahy, who added that "all controversial judges will be held over."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said Republicans have no basis to criticize the committee because it has passed 14 circuit and 66 district judges.
"I defy anybody to come up with a better record than that," Mr. Daschle said.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, defended the chairman's actions and said they are not going to rubber-stamp nominees.
"I think these criticisms are unfair, [Mr. Leahy] has done an admirable job of getting judges forward," Mr. Feingold said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, also dismissed the rule and said it is the right of the chairman to set the schedule.
A motion to overrule the chairman ended with a 9-9 tie vote. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, did not cast his vote.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, then asked for a voice vote of all the members present. This request was denied by Mr. Leahy.
Mr. Hatch called the actions a "precedent," a "real breach of committee rules" and a "breach of protocol."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said the panel's actions "goes to the matter of your word."
"We were very outraged by the way the Judiciary Committee conducted itself once again, and it creates a very bad atmosphere to complete the work" of the committee, he said.
Last year, Mr. Thurmond also complained that Senate Democrats objected to a late-night gentleman's agreement that would have allowed the aging and frail South Carolina Republican to go home during marathon voting on tax cuts.
Democrats denied the accusation, saying the Senate simply adjourned for the night before the kind-hearted agreement could be worked out.


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