- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the first of President Bush’s resubmitted judicial nominees who had been filibustered in previous Congresses.

The 10-8 vote along party lines suggests that William G. Myers III faces the same fate he and nine other nominees suffered during Mr. Bush’s first term. Mr. Myers was first nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals almost two years ago and won committee approval along party lines a year ago.

Yesterday’s committee action moved Republicans and Democrats in the Senate one step closer to the ultimate showdown that has been termed “nuclear” for its likelihood to grind nearly all Senate business to a halt.

“Mr. Myers is likely to be used as a trigger for the nuclear option,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

The “nuclear” option — which Republicans call the “constitutional option” — is a parliamentary procedure whereby Republicans bypass a Democratic filibuster and confirm a nominee with a simple majority.

Mr. Myers is among 10 Bush nominees who have been blocked by a minority group of Democrats refusing to allow a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor. While previous nominees to the bench have been blocked in committee and delayed a final Senate vote, the current Democratic filibusters are the first time that judicial nominees have been systematically denied a final vote by a minority.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, listed Mr. Myers’ nomination for consideration in his panel first, saying he hoped to get a few Democrat votes. But at his hearing last month, the former Interior Department lawyer and lobbyist for Western cattle and mining interests was greeted with Democratic hostility.

“Little has changed in connection with this controversial nomination since last year,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking committee member, said yesterday. “I explained then, and I will again today, that William Myers is perhaps the most anti-environmental judicial nominee we have seen nominated to the Senate.”

Although Mr. Myers is the first approved by the Judiciary panel, he will not necessarily be the first nominee to reach the Senate floor, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Republicans say Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican, probably will choose the most ardently opposed nominee as the test case so as to settle the matter once and for all.

Conservatives are pleading with Mr. Frist to make his move well before this summer, when one or more retirements are expected on the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Mr. Frist wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, responding to his threat earlier this week that Democrats would shut down non-defense and nonessential Senate operations if the “nuclear option” is employed.

“When we return after the Easter recess, I will offer a proposal that takes account of complaints both parties have had with the confirmation process,” Mr. Frist wrote. “It will protect the Constitution, validate our duties as senators, and restore fairness to a process gone awry.”

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