Thursday, July 13, 2006

Senators from both parties expressed concern yesterday over President Bush’s nomination of William J. Haynes II to the Richmond-based circuit bench, heightening the likelihood that the nomination will be filibustered or outright defeated.

“I have a lot of concerns about Haynes based on his role at the Pentagon when the legal memoranda on detainees’ treatment was drafted,” Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said yesterday. “That is a major issue for me.”

Miss Collins attended a meeting yesterday of the so-called “Gang of 14” senators to discuss deepening concerns over Mr. Haynes’ nomination to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The group — consisting of seven Republicans and seven Democrats — is credited with ending the string of filibusters against Mr. Bush’s federal nominees.

But this is the first time the group has been so openly hostile toward one of Mr. Bush’s nominees. At least half of the members have expressed public doubts about supporting Mr. Haynes.

“I’m opposed to his confirmation, and I think the Senate Judiciary Committee will probably vote him down,” Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat and member of the centrist group, said yesterday. “He may not see the light of day.”

Among those with the most pointed questions about Mr. Haynes is Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and avid White House supporter, who earlier this week questioned Mr. Haynes over his involvement in drafting Department of Defense policies for handling terror suspects captured on the battlefield.

In particular, Mr. Graham said those policies — later repudiated by the administration — created confusion that contributed to the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

At his hearing earlier this week, Mr. Haynes told Mr. Graham that judge advocate general officers, or JAGs, had been consulted in the drafting of detainee policies.

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, the Air Force’s top JAG, testified that he had not seen the detainee policy until it was finished.

“I saw the April 2003 report about 14 months after it was issued,” he told Mr. Graham during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. “No one in the Air Force JAG had seen it before then, to my knowledge.”

Beyond the detainee policy, the centrists who met yesterday also said they are worried that Mr. Haynes was evasive or less than truthful during his two hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Miss Collins left open the possibility that she would support a filibuster of the Haynes nomination.

“I haven’t made a decision,” Miss Collins said. “But in general I think it really does take extraordinary circumstances before I would support a judicial filibuster.”

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