- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee dredged up years of history and past slights in the confirmation process yesterday during a hearing on the nomination of a Michigan judge to the federal appeals court.

The debate on the Senate committee focused hardly at all on the nominee, Michigan Appeals Court Judge Henry Saad, nominated for a seat on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Instead, lawmakers talked about the process by which his hearing was held.

Traditionally, nominees are not given hearings or advanced through the confirmation process unless they have the support of both home-state senators. In this instance, Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Michigan Democrats, oppose Judge Saad and three other nominees from Michigan.

But their reasons have little to do with Judge Saad or the other nominees. Rather, Mr. Levin and Mrs. Stabenow are still smarting over the Republican treatment of President Clinton’s nominees.

“That distortion of the judicial nomination process was grossly unfair,” Mr. Levin told senators on the committee.

Nevertheless, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the committee, proceeded with Judge Saad’s nomination and promised to carry on with the other Michigan nominees.

Mr. Hatch said the Michigan senators had been amply consulted by the White House before the nomination.

Mr. Levin said one Clinton nominee in particular, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Helene White, waited more that four years without getting a hearing — a record, he said.

Republicans were quick to counter that Judge Saad was first nominated to the appeals court by President George H.W. Bush 10 years ago and has been renominated twice by his son, President Bush.

“All told, Judge Saad has been nominated for a seat on the federal bench three separate times,” Mr. Hatch said. “It is high time this committee consider his nomination.”

Democrats shot back that the first Mr. Bush nominated Judge Saad only six days before the end of his term, assuring no hope that he’d be confirmed. That debate continued for several more minutes.

Democrats were galled that Judge Saad’s nomination proceeded over the objection of both home-state senators, particularly since Judge White’s nomination had been stalled by the objections of just one Republican, then Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan.

“Today will be long remembered in the annals of the Senate and of our committee for the precedent set by this hearing for the hubris behind it and for the brazenness of the double standard it sets,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

Nominees are traditionally introduced to the committee by their home-state senators. Given the opposition from Mr. Levin and Mrs. Stabenow, Mr. Hatch had to bring in Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, to introduce Judge Saad.

Even bidding farewell to Mr. Rogers after the introduction devolved into 10 minutes of partisan squabbling between Mr. Hatch and Mr. Leahy, with each taking several turns at the microphone lecturing Mr. Rogers about the history of the long and grinding war over judicial confirmations and who wronged whom first.

The committee hearing was cut short so members could head over to the floor of the Senate and take up the fight over Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, Mr. Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

A group of 45 Democratic senators voted for a seventh time yesterday to bar Mr. Estrada’s nomination from reaching the floor for a final vote.

On Tuesday, many of the same Democrats voted for a third time to block the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Republicans hope to force a final vote today on California Judge Carolyn Kuhl, nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and tomorrow on Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, nominated to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both attempts are expected to fail.


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