Senate Democrats, White House Reach Deal on Judicial Nominees

Senate Democrats and the White House announced a deal on Tuesday that will allow 25 federal court nominees to receive votes in the full Senate. In exchange, President Bush has promised he will make no more recess appointments of controversial judicial nominees through the end of his current term in office. This ends a seven-week halt on all judicial confirmations by Democrats in the Senate who were incensed that Bush installed two filibustered judicial nominees to position on federal courts of appeals while Congress was in recess.

Of the 25 nominees who will now move forward, 20 have been nominated for posts on federal district courts and five are nominees for federal circuit courts of appeals. Under the terms of the deal, Senate Democrats will continue filibusters against Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, and Janice Rogers Brown. Democrats also will not move forward the controversial nominations of Idaho lawyer William Meyers, who has been heavily opposed for his environmental record, and Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes. “Nominations do not get much worse than this,” wrote Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in a Washington Post opinion piece on the nomination of Haynes. “Haynes does not come anywhere close to the commitment to fundamental rights and the principle of separation of powers that we all expect from the federal courts. He would be a poster boy on the 4th Circuit for denying the rule of law.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has guaranteed Democrats that he will not try to end to the current filibusters by calling for cloture votes to end debate on these nominations. According to Roll Call, Frist also guaranteed no cloture votes on the two nominees who were installed temporarily in recess appointments. The Post reports that there will most likely be few nominations beyond these 25 that reach the Senate floor for votes, since the Senate traditionally stops action on judicial nominations by the summer before a presidential election.

Among those listed as “non-controversial” nominees who will move forward is James Leon Holmes, nominated to the federal district court in Little Rock, Arkansas. Holmes, the former president of Arkansas Right to Life, was quoted in a 1997 religious publication saying that “a wife is to subordinate herself to her husband,” according to the Post.

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Washington Post 5/19/04, 4/2/04; Sen. Leahy press release 5/18/04; Roll Call 5/19/04; Feminist Majority

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