- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

President Bush has seen more of his appeals court nominees confirmed by the Senate at this point in his term than any other president since at least the 1970s, despite Democratic filibusters against two nominees.

The Senate has confirmed 24 of Mr. Bush’s appellate nominees in his first 29 months in office.

By comparison, the first President Bush saw 23 confirmed, and President Clinton saw 22 confirmed, at the same point in their presidencies.

Republicans say those numbers are misleading because Mr. Bush has nominated so many more judges than his predecessors because of both existing vacancies and recent expansion of the federal courts.

At the lower, district court level, Mr. Clinton had 122 judicial nominees confirmed in his first 29 months, and Mr. Bush has had 102 confirmed.

But it is with the appellate nominations, where considerably more power is at stake than with district judgeships, that senators wage the most intense ideological battles.

Both the Democratic filibusters are against nominees to appeals courts.

Though a majority of senators support the nominations of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada to appellate court positions, Democrats have mustered the 41 Senate votes needed to block final action on the Bush appointments.

Republicans charge that Democrats are obstructing the judicial-nomination process with “unprecedented” filibusters. As evidence against that accusation, Democrats have pointed to the rate of confirmations for Mr. Bush’s nominees, which are comparable to recent administrations.

The confirmation process “ain’t broke,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, defending the record after Republicans recommended changing Senate rules to bar filibusters against judicial nominees.

“Democrats have time and again acted in good faith to fill these vacancies,” said David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

He pointed to the party’s record before Republicans regained control of the Senate in January.

“The Democratic Senate in just 17 months confirmed 100 of the president’s judicial nominees,” Mr. Carle said.

There are 45 federal judicial seats that are not filled.

Of those, 24 are considered “judicial emergencies” by the Department of Justice because of the mounting backlog of work in those circuits or districts.

It is misleading to simply count the number of confirmations for Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees, said Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “It’s apples and oranges.”

Mr. Bush nominated more judges in his first 29 months than did his recent predecessors. According to numbers provided by Mr. Stewart, Mr. Bush had a 53 percent confirmation rate, and Mr. Clinton had an 88 percent confirmation rate during the comparable period of his presidency.

Regardless, Mr. Stewart said, Democrats and Republicans should forget about past slights and work together to fill the judicial vacancies with Mr. Bush’s nominees.

“We want to get away from the recriminations of the past,” he said. “Let’s talk about what’s happening now.”

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