updated 5/18/2004 12:21:02 PM ET 2004-05-18T16:21:02

President Bush and Senate Democrats are nearing a deal that would halt judicial recess appointments for the rest of the year in exchange for quick Senate confirmation of 25 of the president’s judicial nominees, Senate sources told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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Under the terms of the deal, Bush would not use his constitutional recess appointment power before next year. In recess appointments, the president waits until the Senate leaves town and then gives his judicial nominees a one-year or two-year term on the federal bench.

In exchange, Senate Democrats will not object to 25 of the White House’s noncontroversial judicial nominees that have been waiting for a vote in the Senate. Democrats had halted all judicial nominees until they received a promise from Bush that he wouldn’t use his recess appointment power.

Negotiators were close to striking a deal and expected to make an announcement soon, Senate Republican and Democratic sources said on condition of anonymity.

Bush already has used recess appointments to name two Republicans to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Charles Pickering — a former chairman of the Mississippi Republican party and father of GOP Rep. Chip Pickering — and William Pryor, the former GOP attorney general of Alabama.

Democrats furious
Democrats were furious at those appointments because they had been successfully blocking Pryor, Pickering, Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada and Judges Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown from getting confirmation votes.

Estrada later withdrew his nomination but the others are still waiting.

It takes 60 senators to force a confirmation vote in the Senate, which is split with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent, Jim Jeffords of Vermont.

Owen, Kuhl, Brown and other judicial nominees Democrats found objectionable are not part of the impending deal, the sources said. White House nominees for positions outside the federal courts also are not part of the deal, they said.

Republicans had planned to force a vote on one of the noncontroversial nominees — Marcia Cooke, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s former chief inspector general — on Tuesday, but a deal would make that vote unneccessary, the sources said.

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