- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

Senate Republicans said they hope to bypass the Judiciary Committee to confirm four of President Bush’s judicial nominees from Michigan.

The nominees to the federal appeals court have been blocked by Michigan’s senators, both Democrats, for more than a year in what Republicans say is retaliation for the similar treatment of two of President Clinton’s nominees.

Republican leadership plans to file a “discharge petition,” a rarely used parliamentary maneuver that would eject the nominees from committee directly to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

“I urge my colleagues again to allow the Senate to work its will on these nominations and give them an up-or-down vote,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, at yesterday’s session.

Although the petition is likely to fail under a Democratic filibuster, it is part of Republicans’ larger effort to portray Democrats as obstructing the confirmation of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Democrats have filibusters against Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Other nominees awaiting floor consideration face likely filibusters.

“It really puts pressure on Democrats,” one Republican said, calling it a “circus of filibusters.”

Blocked in the Judiciary Committee are David W. McKeague, federal judge for the Western District of Michigan; Susan Neilson, a state circuit judge; Henry W. Saad, a judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals; and Richard A. Griffin, also a Michigan Court of Appeals judge.

All are nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles appeals from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

In March, Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow returned negative “blue slips,” the traditional method for senators to express approval or disapproval of a federal judicial nominee from their state.

Mr. Levin and Mrs. Stabenow have said they weren’t properly consulted before the nominations and remain angered about the treatment of Helene White, a state judge, and Kathleen McCree Lewis, a Michigan lawyer, who were nominated by Mr. Clinton but were stalled by Republicans in the Judiciary Committee.

“They waited four years and never got a hearing or a vote,” one Democratic staffer said. “Not a tear was shed by Republicans over those nominations.”

Republicans were expected to seek the petition late yesterday, but some predicted it might get bumped until later in the week.

Democrats said the move would set a dangerous precedent because the four nominees have not appeared before the committee for hearings held for all nominees.

“They have not answered a single question as a nominee,” the staffer said.

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