- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Sen. Charles E. Schumer yesterday said Democrats will filibuster the nomination of Alabama’s attorney general to the federal bench, which would make him the third judicial nominee of President Bush to be blocked by Democrats.

“I have never seen the caucus stronger and more united,” the New York Democrat said after his party’s weekly planning lunch. “There will be another filibuster, and we will prevail.”

The Senate’s Democratic leadership has yet to announce its plan, but several other Democrats said they expect to filibuster the nomination of William H. Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

Mr. Pryor’s nomination has met intense opposition over his strident and unapologetic stand against abortion. Even some Republicans have expressed reservations about confirming Mr. Pryor, who opposes abortions in all circumstances including rape and incest.

When Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, voted Mr. Pryor out of committee, he said he reserved the right to vote against his nomination on the floor.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Republican, said yesterday, “I have concerns about his nomination. I’m still reviewing some issues.”

Senate Democrats already are filibustering final votes on Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Republicans also plan to try forcing a final vote on the nomination of California Judge Carolyn Kuhl to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kuhl is opposed by many Democrats and is also expected to be filibustered.

When Democrats were asked why they wouldn’t allow a final vote on Mr. Pryor so they could kill his nomination once and for all, several expressed reservation that they had the votes needed to do so.

“Republican senators have voted in lockstep for every Bush nominee in committee and on the floor,” said Jay Carson, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

Meanwhile, battles over Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees continue in the Judiciary Committee, where Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and committee chairman, has scheduled a hearing for today on the nomination of a Michigan Judge Henry Saad over the staunch objection of his two home-state senators.

Traditionally, negative “blue slips” — the cards home-state senators use to express displeasure with a nominee — are enough to scuttle him or her.

Republicans plan to move forward on a total of four Michigan nominees to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, including Judge Saad, despite objections by Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrats. Their opposition is retaliation for Republican obstruction of former President Clinton’s nominees from Michigan.

Democrats have charged the move “unprecedented,” but a recently discovered memo written two years ago by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican and longtime committee member, suggests otherwise.

Makan Delrahim, Mr. Hatch’s chief counsel, was cleaning out his desk last week after accepting a job in the White House counsel’s office when he discovered the June 8, 2001, memo.

“I am aware of actual cases in which the Committee acted on nominees without both home state senators” approving, Mr. Thurmond wrote Mr. Specter.

Particularly interesting about the note is that the status of blue slips historically has been a carefully guarded secret. In his letter, Mr. Thurmond gives the names and dates of several blue-slip fights.

He listed three cases where nominees had been confirmed over the objections of home-state senators and two additional cases where hearings were held over the objection of home-state senators. In some cases, the home-state senators actually testified against the nominee.

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