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Democrats Open - So Far - to Bush's First Judicial Nominees

Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:00 AM

"As a group, they command broad, bipartisan support among those who know them and who have served with them," Bush said as he stood in the East Room alongside the appointees, who included Virginia's Judge Roger Gregory, a black Democrat whose recess appointment to the 4th Circuit during the Clinton administration was set to expire.

"I submit their names to the Senate with full confidence that they will satisfy any test of judicial merit," Bush said.

Gregory's re-appointment was seen as an olive branch from Bush to Senate Democrats, who threatened to stonewall the president's judicial nominees in the evenly divided Senate unless the White House's picks reflected Democrat consultation.

"For many weeks now, we have sought and received advice from senators of both parties," Bush said. "I now submit these nominations in good faith, trusting that good faith will also be extended by the United States Senate," the president said.

The nominations loom as a potentially bitter political fight in the wake of dozens of Clinton administration nominations left untouched by the last GOP-controlled Senate.

Democrats signaled willingness to move forward with the hearings on the judicial nominees and Bush's picks to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Democrats tried to glean a temporary victory from the fray, claiming that their pressure had caused Bush to purge "extreme conservatives" from the first list of judicial nominees.

"I commend the president for moderating his original plans," said Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The slate of judges offers a medium in ideological spectrum, with Gregory and Barrington Parker Jr. enjoying strong Democrat support.

Democrats warned that Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., could still object to the nomination of Terrence W. Boyle to the 4th Circuit, however. But Edwards said he might allow the Boyle nomination to go forward - so long as Bush soon nominates Jim Wynn, a black judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, to the same court.

"Providing an opportunity for Judge Wynn to be considered could help clear the way for consideration of President Bush's choice of another North Carolinian for the appeals court," Edwards said.

Partisan fighting over the judicial branch came to a head last week, when Democrats stalled the nominations of Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson and Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson until the GOP ensured that a Democrat senator could quietly veto a White House nomination of a judge for that state.

The Senate Judiciary Committee allows a home-state senator to object to a new nomination by sending a negative "blue slip" to the committee chairman. The two sides are still arguing over how or whether the chairman is bound by that secret blue slip.

Republicans feared that Democrats would use parliamentary tactics to stall Bush's nominations perhaps until Sen. Strom Thurmond, the 98-year-old Republican from South Carolina, left his seat open, thereby handing the Senate majority to the Democrats.

Thurmond was on hand at the White House ceremony, along with Leahy; Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman; George Voinovich, R-Ohio; and Virginia's two GOP senators, John Warner and George Allen.

Bush pointed to more than 100 vacancies on the federal bench and blamed partisan battles in the previous administration for leaving nearly one in five judgeships open.

"I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past, to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee," Bush said. That should be the case for no matter who lives in this house, and no matter who controls the Senate."

Democrats, by and large, agreed.

"We don't see any reason to just, per se, hold back Justice Department nominees," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

But the liberal Leahy warned that a partisan battle over future nominees could still come.

"We will make sure there is a balanced judiciary," Leahy said.

The nominees are: John G. Roberts, District of Columbia; Miguel Angel Estrada, District of Columbia; Barrington Parker Jr., 2nd Circuit, Connecticut; Edith Brown Clement, 5th Circuit, Louisiana; Priscilla Owen, 5th Circuit, Texas; Roger Gregory, 4th Circuit, Virginia; Jeffrey S. Sutton, 6th Circuit, Ohio; Deborah Cook, 6th Circuit, Ohio; Michael W. McConnell, 10th Circuit, Utah; Dennis W. Shedd, 4th Circuit, South Carolina; and Terrence W. Boyle, 4th Circuit, North Carolina.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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As a group, they command broad, bipartisan support among those who know them and who have served with them, Bush said as he stood in the East Room alongside the appointees, who included Virginia's Judge Roger Gregory, a black Democrat whose recess appointment to the 4th...
Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:00 AM
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