Video: Judges to get second look

updated 12/24/2004 8:24:18 PM ET 2004-12-25T01:24:18

Refusing to be brushed off by Democratic opposition in the Senate, President Bush plans to nominate for a second time 20 people who did not receive up or down votes on their nominations for federal judgeships.

The Democrats’ ability to stall certain White House picks for the federal bench was one of the most contentious issues of Bush’s first term. During the past two years, despite the GOP majority in the Senate, Democrats used filibusters to prevent final votes from occurring on 10 of 34 of Bush’s nominees to federal appeals courts.

“The president nominated highly qualified individuals to the federal courts during his first term, but the Senate failed to vote on many nominations,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement the White House issued Thursday. “Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the issue of judicial vacancies, compounds the backlog of cases and delays timely justice for the American people.”

Democrats reacted with irritation.

“I was extremely disappointed to learn today that the president intends to begin the new Congress by resubmitting extremist judicial nominees,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement. “Last Congress, Senate Democrats worked with the president to approve 204 judicial nominees, rejecting only 10 of the most extreme.”

Reid said Bush’s decision to resubmit the nominees was a “disservice” to the public because it distracted the Senate from paying attention to the war in Iraq, health care and other pressing issues.

When the 109th Congress convenes on Jan. 4, Bush intends to re-nominate the following 12 individuals for the U.S. Court of Appeals:

Terrence W. Boyle, 4th Circuit; Priscilla Richman Owen, 5th Circuit; David W. McKeague, 6th Circuit; Susan Bieke Neilson, 6th Circuit; Henry W. Saad, 6th Circuit; Richard A. Griffin, 6th Circuit; William H. Pryor; 11th Circuit; William Gerry Myers III, 9th Circuit; Janice Rogers Brown, District of Columbia Circuit; Brett M. Kavanaugh, District of Columbia Circuit; William James Haynes II, 4th Circuit; and Thomas B. Griffith, District of Columbia Circuit.

Bush also intends to nominate again the following eight people to less controversial U.S. District Court positions:

James C. Dever III, Eastern District, North Carolina; Thomas L. Ludington, Eastern District, Michigan; Robert J. Conrad, Western District, North Carolina; Daniel P. Ryan, Eastern District, Michigan; Peter G. Sheridan, New Jersey; Paul A. Crotty, Southern District, New York; Sean F. Cox, Eastern District, Michigan; and J. Michael Seabright, Hawaii.

Republicans hope their gain of four Senate seats on Election Day will discourage Democrats from using filibusters again. But in a Senate next year with 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and a Democrat-leaning independent, Democrats still will have the 40 votes necessary to uphold a filibuster. The Republicans need 60 votes to end a filibuster.

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“I hope they’ll receive better treatment than they did in the last Congress,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a Judiciary Committee member, said Thursday. “We experienced unprecedented filibusters of the president’s judicial nominees, which I believe the voters repudiated on Nov. 2, both by returning the president with a decisive victory and defeating the chief obstructionist in the Senate, that was the minority leader.

“The dynamics of 2006 are in play here,” Cornyn said. “Those Democratic senators up for re-election in states Bush did very well in have to be looking at what happened to Tom Daschle in South Dakota and wondering if the same fate is in store for them if they continue to obstruct and prevent up or down votes on the president’s nominees.”

Daschle’s Nov. 2 election loss cost him his Senate seat and the job of Senate minority leader.

Of the 10 appeals court nominees blocked by the Democrats, four are missing from Bush’s new list of nominees for the federal bench.

Charles Pickering Sr.’s bruising battle for a seat on a federal appeals court abruptly ended when Bush, in a recess appointment, elevated him without congressional approval. But on Dec. 9, Pickering announced his retirement, saying he would not seek nomination for a permanent seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The other three are: Miguel Estrada, a native of Honduras and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who has been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee; California judge Carolyn Kuhl; and Claude Allen, whose Virginia residency upset Maryland’s two senators because the post to which he was nominated on the 4th Circuit typically is held by a Marylander.

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