Wednesday, November 12, 2003

98 percent!

That is the percentage of Bush’s court nominees who have been approved by the Senate since he took office leading to the lowest vacancy rate on the courts in 13 years. Out of 172 nominees, only four have failed to be confirmed - Charles Pickering Jr., Pricilla Owens, Bill Pryor and Miguel Estrada (now withdrawn).

Compare that to Clinton’s record, especially during the last two year’s of his term. In 1999, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 25 of 70 Clinton nominees. And in 2000 the Senate confirmed just 39 or 81 nominees. There were 42 nominees left unconfirmed when Clinton left office in Jan. 2001.

So Bush has had a remarkable rate of success with his nominees. And yet 98 percent is still not good enough for the radical Republicans who are putting on an all-night talkathon on the Senate floor to highlight and protest the tactics of Senate Democrats who have had the audacity to block confirmation of 2 percent of Bush’s nominees.

Obviously, the radical Republicans won’t be happy until Bush is granted complete carte blanche to put any looney right-winger on the court that he chooses. Bush is even being urged to ratchet up the partisan warfare by making recess appointments to the courts when the Senate is out of session.

The gross unfairness and hypocricy of the radical Republican position on this matter is hard to summarize in just a few paragraphs, but for an excellent overview of the whole sorry spectacle here is an essay from the THE JOURNAL OF APPELLATE PRACTICE AND PROCESS entitled “CONFIRMATION GRIDLOCK: THE FEDERAL JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS PROCESS UNDER BILL CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH”

It did not matter how conciliatory Clinton chose to be or how moderate his judicial nominees were, the radical Republicans were intent on preventing Clinton from shifting the judiciary from its far-right course that had been set in place following 12 years of Reagan-Bush appointees.

“Since the 1994 midterm elections, Clinton had consulted with members of the Republican majority in the Senate. He seemed less interested in appointing ideologically rigid judges than with using his appointments to create a demographically representative judiciary filled with more women and minorities. [57] Early studies of the voting behavior of Clinton’s first-term judges (including those appointed when Democrats controlled the Senate) showed a moderate voting record on the bench. [58] His nominees also had the highest American Bar Association ratings of the past four presidents. [59] Nonetheless, a fundraising letter for the Judicial Selection Monitoring Project signed by Robert Bork in September 1997 charged that “over the past 4½ years, [Clinton’s] more than 200 . . . judicial appointments have been drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of the liberal elite. These judges blazed an activist trail, creating an out-of-control judiciary.”

Things got so bad by 1997 that Chief Justice William Rhenquist was forced to admonish Republican lawmakers for their stalling tactics.

“In his 1997 year-end report to Congress on the federal judiciary, the Chief Justice pointed out that by the end of 1997, one in ten seats on the federal judiciary were vacant, twenty-six of them had been vacant for at least eighteen months, and a third of the seats on the Ninth Circuit were vacant. [74] He rebuked his fellow conservatives for “serious delays in the appointment process,” a tactic that he said was threatening the nation’s “quality of justice.”...

"...Senate Republicans backed away from their stall tactics and the backlog of vacancies eased up in 1998. But in 1999, as the 2000 election loomed, Republicans again slowed down the confirmation process. Despite Attorney General Meese’s claim that President Reagan’s judicial appointments would “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future presidential elections,” [77] President Clinton—just ten years after Reagan left office—was close to appointing a new majority on the federal bench. Senate Republicans wanted to prevent that, and they hoped that a Republican president would be elected in 2000 to fill any remaining vacancies that they managed to keep open...

“...the Senate confirmed only thirty-nine of the eighty-one judicial nominees that Clinton sent to the Senate in 2000. In all, forty-two judicial nominees remained unconfirmed when Clinton left office in January 2001. Thirty-eight of them never received a hearing.”

And today the radical Republicans are going to waste two days of the Senate’s time whining about four nominees who weren’t confirmed. Boo hoo.

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