- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

Senate Republicans plan a blitz to confirm President Bush’s stalled judicial nominations soon after returning from break next week.

Though their first priority will be passing Mr. Bush’s $87 billion request for occupying and rebuilding Iraq, top Republicans said the blocked judges will be next on the agenda. Their plans include forcing around-the-clock debate on filibustered nominees, introducing a change in Senate rules that would bar filibusters against judicial nominees and creating a “judges week,” during which all other legislative issues would be pushed aside to make way for debate on the nominees.

Four judicial nominees are stalled by filibusters on the Senate floor or otherwise blocked from reaching the floor. Three more nominees are awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee and appear headed toward a similar fate. In total, Democrats and Republicans say the number of filibustered nominees could reach seven before year’s end.

“It will be a top priority when they get back,” said Manuel Miranda, who handles judicial nominations for Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “We will get to it at the earliest possible moment.”

Republicans renewed their effort after the first filibustered nominee, Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, withdrew his name from consideration to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals after waiting more than two years for confirmation.

Still filibustered by a bloc of 45 Democrats are Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, nominated to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two more nominees — California Judge Carolyn Kuhl, nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Mississippi federal Judge Charles W. Pickering, nominated to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — were approved by the committee on a party-line vote. Democrats indicate they plan to filibuster them.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee also plan to act in coming weeks on three more nominees with whom Democrats have expressed displeasure.

“We’ve been very patient in the face of filibusters against the president’s nominees, but we won’t be for much longer,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the committee. “Much of their obstruction has been limited to committee rooms and unspoken threats. If they want to continue dancing to the tune of special interests, they’re going to have to do it live on C-SPAN.”

Democrats said they’ve heard rumblings about Republican plans but remain committed to blocking the nominees.

“Instead of acknowledging the historic levels of cooperation offered by Senate Democrats on President Bush’s nominees, Republicans prefer to renew these earlier fights over the most controversial nominees,” said David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats accuse Republicans of tossing out long-held committee rules and traditions to ram through nominees.

“They run roughshod over the rules now that there’s a Republican, occupant in the White House,” Mr. Carle said.

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