After calling for bipartisanship, President Bush surprised Senate Democrats with plans to renominate a controversial list of judges – some of whom may be unacceptable even to a few Republican senators. “It’s an unfortunate signal,” said one senior Democratic Senate aide.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has not received the nominations yet. As word spread about the nominations, however, the committee’s Republican Chairman Arlen Specter told reporters: “It is obvious they cannot move during the lame-duck session.” After January, he added, questions about the fate of the nominees should be “directed to someone else.”
The White House action is viewed largely as an effort to appease the party’s conservative base. An administration official says there will be a formal White House announcement on the renominations later today. The president is in Moscow, having left Washington last night.
Lawmakers and others had been waiting to see whether Bush would renominate four particularly controversial appeals court candidates whose nominations had expired without Senate action. He did. The four include two nominees to the Fourth Circuit in Richmond: Terrence Boyle, a district court judge in North Carolina and a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, and Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, who became a symbol of the Bush administration’s policies on terrorism, interrogations and other wartime powers. In addition, William Myers, a lobbyist and critic of environmental rules, was renominated for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, and Michael Wallace of Mississippi, rated unqualified for the appeals court by an American Bar Association panel, was renominated for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. – Jeanne Cummings and John D. McKinnon
UPDATE: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat slated to become the Judiciary Committee chairman in January, said in a statement that “the president is choosing partisanship over progress and division over unity, at the expense of a fair and independent judiciary. This is exactly the kind of political game-playing that prompted Americans to demand change and a new direction in Washington. The signal the president is sending by renominating these controversial candidates is regrettable. But I hope the president will work with us in charting a new direction in the next congressional session, by choosing consensus nominees who unite instead of divide America.”