Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) took on Representative Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales this week in a fight over control of the judicial appointment process in Washington state. Cantwell and Murray want the review commission to have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans; Dunn and Gonzales are insisting that Republicans outnumber Democrats by 2:1.
Because appointments are lifelong, Rebulicans are anxious to fill 94 open federal judgeships before control of the closely-held Senate comes up forgrabs again in 2002. This process is likely to be particularly contentious in states with two Democratic senators, such as Washington State, New York,California and Florida.
Watchdog organizations are monitoring the state-level struggles for indicators of how Republicans will handle a Supreme Court nomination if one or more of the current justices retire. So far, the indication is that Republicans are not afraid to use their slim majority to shut Democrats out of the process.