- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

The fight over judicial nominations — normally an academic debate among partisans dedicated to the issue of federal courts — has become a priority for a broad range of conservatives.

Dozens of conservatives — including anti-taxers, free-traders and Christian conservatives — have united to demand President Bush’s judicial nominees get final confirmation votes in the Senate.

They are placing pressure like never before on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to employ the so-called “nuclear option” — a rarely used parliamentary procedure that would confirm judges on a simple majority vote — to break Democratic filibusters.

“Every once in a while … a debate comes along that’s really important, and I think this is one of those moments,” said Gary L. Bauer, the social conservative who founded American Values. “This is a basic question of fairness.”

“The judicial nominees that are being held up by the filibuster have not been accused of any ethical problems, haven’t cheated on their taxes. Nobody’s accused them of anything inappropriate,” Mr. Bauer said. “The only thing they’ve been accused of is sharing a philosophy of the president who nominated them.”

Mr. Bauer joined more than 150 conservatives in signing a letter to Mr. Frist and other Senate Republican leaders.

“[T]he unprecedented abuse of the filibuster is a device intended to undermine the prerogatives of the Presidency as well as the tradition of the Senate,” they wrote. “It must stand. You must not waver.”

Mr. Bauer was joined by David A. Keene of the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform, among others.

At a press conference about the letter yesterday, conservatives lamented the situation in the Senate, where seven of President Bush’s nominees to the appellate bench have been blocked by a minority group of Democrats.

Robert Horn, chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, openly wondered: “What if the pope was a lawyer instead of pope and he had been nominated to be a judge?”

“Despite all his virtues, despite all his achievements, it would make no difference,” he said. “Because of some people in the Senate, he would be disqualified and not confirmed.”

The signers of the letter specifically call on Mr. Frist to employ the “nuclear option.” Former Frist staffer Manuel Miranda, who organized yesterday’s event, said Mr. Frist has 53 votes for the maneuver.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said that Mr. Bush’s blocked nominees are extremists and that he will stall most Senate business if Mr. Frist forces a final vote.

“It would be wise for Minority Leader Reid to have a long discussion with ex-Minority Leader Tom Daschle,” Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, said of the senator who was defeated in November. “That obstruction thing does seem to have worked out very well for them so far, and I understand Mr. Daschle has a lot of time on his hands to discuss such options.”

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