Tags: Democrats | Stall | Justice | Nominations

Democrats Stall Justice Nominations

Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM

The action by the Democrats has blocked any vote on the nominations of Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson and Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, the top two officers at the Justice Department after Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Democrats said Tuesday Republicans would not allow them to object to the nomination of judges to the federal bench, and they chose to block the Justice Department nominations in protest.

But angry Republicans said Democrats were trying to derail the nominations of Republican judges. "The Democrats want to stop the nominations of our Republican nominees," Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, thundered.

Republicans went on the offense Thursday, complaining Democrats were holding the Justice Department hostage.

"The American people need to know that the important business of a very important department of the federal government can not be conducted because the attorney general ... needs the number two person, the deputy, and he needs the number three person, the solicitor general," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said.

Democrats said Republicans were trying to cut them out of a separate process of approving or disapproving new federal judges.

"The issue is not a situation where Democrats don't want a Republican president to be able to make appointments," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We have a Constitution in this country. We don't have an unrestrained president, no matter what party they belong to."

Democrats executed the maneuver at a committee hearing Thursday. Four Democrats were purposely absent before the vote on the Olson and Thompson nominations, leaving only nine senators in the room, one short of a quorum required for a vote. Democrats have signaled that no vote is likely soon until the two sides reach a compromise on the judicial nominations.

The White House is expected to send a list of between 25 and 40 new nominations to the Senate to fill around 95 vacancies. While the Senate approves those nominations, Democrats are concerned that Republicans are trying to ram through a long list of extremely conservative judges before the 50-50 split in the Senate could change.

At stake is the arcane process by which senators provide their advice and consent on the nomination of new judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee allows any senator to object to a new nomination for a judge in their home state by sending a negative "blue slip" to the committee chairman. The two sides are arguing over how or whether the chairman is bound by that secret blue slip.

Specter said the standoff showed that barely hidden partisan bickering in a Senate split 50-50 down party lines had finally boiled over. "With an evenly divided Senate ... there has been a great deal of controversy. But almost all of it has been below the surface," Specter said. "But today, in plain public view, this controversy erupted."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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The action by the Democrats has blocked any vote on the nominations of Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson and Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, the top two officers at the Justice Department after Attorney General John Ashcroft. Democrats said Tuesday Republicans...
Democrats,Stall,Justice,Nominations
485
2001-00-03
Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM
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