White House, GOP Leaders Abandon Bipartisanship on Judges after Right-Wing Heaps Abuse on Recent Deal

Hatch Abandons Senate Tradition to Override Objections of Michigan Senators, Forces Vote on Saad, Hearing on Two Other 6th Circuit Nominees

The White House and Senate Republican leaders abandoned their brief flirtation with a bipartisan approach to judicial nominations this week, rebuffing efforts by Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to reach a compromise on nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, abandoning a longstanding tradition of the Senate previously upheld by both parties, overrode the objections of both of the nominees’ home-state senators and forced a judiciary committee vote on the nomination of Henry Saad to the 6th Circuit. The nomination advanced on a party-line vote. Yesterday, Hatch scheduled a confirmation hearing on two other 6th Circuit nominees, David McKeague and Richard Griffin, despite the continued objections of both home-state Senators. That hearing also contradicted previous Committee policy that only non-controversial nominees should be considered this late in an election year, and that no more than one controversial nominee should be considered at a single hearing.

“So much for a bipartisan approach to the federal judiciary,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “As soon as right-wing groups accused the Bush administration of ‘surrendering’ over a temporary bipartisan agreement on the handling of judicial nominees, the White House returned to partisan form. Today’s power play by Sen. Hatch is all about politics and the election-year strategy of the White House to provoke partisan confrontations to energize the right-wing base.”

In a June 16, 2004 letter to Senators Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, People For the American Way reiterated that the Sixth Circuit vacancies reflect a serious breakdown in the confirmation process that should be remedied on a bipartisan basis. Prior to 2001, several moderate and well-qualified nominees to the Sixth Circuit were never acted upon by the Committee or the Senate, including one nominee who waited more than four years without even a hearing.

“Understandably,” said the PFAW letter, “Senators Levin and Stabenow have thus continued to object to moving forward on Bush Administration Sixth Circuit nominations in light of the rejection of their repeated pleas for a bipartisan process, such as the use of a bipartisan commission as in other states, to produce genuine consultation in the selection of nominees for those seats.... In accordance with prior Committee practice, and for the sake of restoring some bipartisanship to the nominations process, these nominations should not go forward until the home-state Senators’ objections are fairly resolved.”

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