- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

Key senators yesterday discussed plans for unclogging President Bush's judicial nominations amid intensifying partisan discord.
Two plans in particular one proposed by a Democrat and one by a Republican surfaced yesterday. Neither plan, however, appears likely to have broad bipartisan support.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, floated a plan to create nominating commissions in every state to select people for the Senate to confirm to the federal courts.
Mr. Schumer's plan, modeled on a plan first proposed by President Carter in the late 1970s, immediately raised constitutional questions among Republicans. The Constitution says the president "shall nominate" federal judges with "advice and consent" from the Senate.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the plan could face constitutional hurdles and other problems.
"I'm glad Senator Schumer is trying to find a way out of this mess, but I question whether additional bureaucracy would be beneficial," he said.
Another plan, first floated last year by Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, would require an up-or-down vote by the full Senate after a set period of debate. Democrats were quick to point out that Mr. Specter's plan originated in the White House and that it's unlikely to gain much support among Democrats.
"That would be asking us to wave the white flag," said Mr. Schumer, an architect of the Democratic opposition to Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.
The plans will be presented next week at a hearing about the judicial stalemate held by Mr. Cornyn.
Mr. Cornyn, along with the entire class of new senators sworn in this year, wrote Senate leaders asking for a "bipartisan solution" to the gridlock in the nominating process.
"All of us were elected to do a job," reads the letter sent yesterday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "Unfortunately, the current state of our judicial-confirmation process prevents us from doing an important part of that job."
Democrats are filibustering the nomination of one nominee and have vowed to filibuster other nominees they deem ideologically unfit for the federal bench. While Mr. Bush's controversial nominees have the support of a majority of senators including Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, said Democrats have abused the filibuster rule.
Tensions on the Judiciary Committee flared yesterday during a hearing for John G. Roberts, nominee to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Mr. Roberts declined to answer when Mr. Schumer asked him to cite some court rulings with which he disagreed. Mr. Schumer pressed Mr. Roberts and finally, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and committee chairman, interjected and said Mr. Roberts shouldn't have to answer Mr. Schumer's question.
When Mr. Schumer wondered why, Mr. Hatch explained that it was a "dumbass question," which brought snickers from the audience and laughter from Mr. Schumer.

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