Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made good on his promise of retribution against Democrats for their slow pace in confirming judicial nominees by bringing the Senate to a halt Wednesday.

He forced a clerk to read every word of the 491-page global warming bill.

The Senate requires unanimous consent to do many of the housekeeping measures, such as bringing up amendments and moving to and from bills. Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, withheld his consent, forcing the stalemate.

“It is important that judicial emergencies are filled with qualified judges, and we will use the various tools at our disposal to ensure that those nominees and the Republican Conference are treated fairly, and that the Majority takes its commitments seriously,” Mr. McConnell said.

A half-hour into the reading, assistant legislative clerk Kathleen Alvarez had barely finished the table of contents of the massive measure. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said the obstruction will last all day.

Eight appellate court nominees have been approved this Congress, which Republicans say is only half the rate it should be. They also say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada failed to meet his pledge to confirm three appellate nominees by Memorial Day.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, on Tuesday announced he would schedule committee votes on two appellate court nominees, but both are sought by Democrats, so Republicans say they shouldn’t count as progress toward confirming Mr. Bush’s choices.

Mr. Leahy said his committee has made historic efforts to fill judicial slots, and with confirmation of the two judges he’s proposed vacancies on the appeals courts would be in the single digits.

“Lost in all the agitating from the other side of the aisle is the fact that we have succeeded in reducing circuit court vacancies to historically low levels,” he said.

The dustup comes as the Senate was about to return to the global warming bill, and Democrats are likely to say the delay is more about Republicans’ recalcitrance on the environment.

Speaking at a press conference earlier in the day, Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said she suspected Republicans would try to obstruct the bill through any means.

“They’ll have to be exposed for stopping this,” she said.

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