Clinton Renews Judgeship Battle

From Reuters

As Democrats briefly took control of the Senate Wednesday, President Clinton resubmitted eight nominees for appellate court judgeships that previously were not acted on by Republican Senate leaders.

The confrontational move in the waning days of his administration reflects Clinton's frustration with Senate Republicans who kept many of his judicial nominees, including several women and minorities, waiting months or years without voting on their confirmation.

Declaring that many of the nation's appeals courts are in "a state of emergency" because of unfilled vacancies, Clinton said the nominees have waited a combined total of more than 13 years for Senate action and only one of them ever received a hearing.

"The people's appeals are not being heard," the president said in a statement issued by the White House late Wednesday. "That is simply unacceptable.

The renominations were made on the first day of a 17-day period in which Democrats are in control of the Senate.

Although Democrats and Republicans are split 50-50 in the newly sworn-in Senate, Vice President Al Gore's ability to cast tie-breaking votes until President-elect George W. Bush is inaugurated on Jan. 20 gives the Democrats a temporary one-vote edge. Once Vice President-elect Dick Cheney assumes office, the edge will go to the Republicans.

Clinton urged the new Senate to act on the nominations "without delay," but he did not otherwise suggest that Democrats try to hustle them through an accelerated confirmation process during the brief window in which they control the Senate.

Not only would such a move aggravate partisan tensions, it would be unlikely since Republicans will maintain control of the Judiciary Committee, which usually holds confirmation hearings on judicial nominees and sends its recommendations to the full Senate.

"It is my sincere hope that we can work with the Senate in a bipartisan spirit to get these nominees confirmed," Clinton said. "The qualifications of these nominees are not in question. All of them are highly rated and respected. They also represent the kind of diversity that we all know enhances fairness and confidence in our courts."

Among the eight nominees are Roger Gregory, an African American attorney from Richmond, Va., who Clinton appointed last week to a one-year term on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Clinton named Gregory under his authority to make recess appointments while Congress is out of session. The White House said at the time that it would renominate Gregory for a lifelong term to the 4th Circuit, which has five vacancies and has never had a black judge.

Another nominees, Judge Helen White of Michigan, was originally nominated 3 1/2 years ago for the 6th Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Clinton has railed against Republican Senate leaders, accusing them of politicizing the confirmation process. Shortly before election day, Clinton had 42 pending judicial nominees.

The remaining six nominees are Judge James Wynn of North Carolina for the 4th Circuit, Enrique Moreno of Texas for the 5th Circuit, Kathleen McCree Lewis of Michigan for the 6th Circuit, Bonnie Campbell of Iowa for the 8th Circuit, Barry Goode of California for the 9th Circuit and James Duffy of Hawaii, also for the 9th Circuit.

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