Bush Photo Ops on Courts Miss the Real Picture

Statistics Debunk White House Claims of Obstructionism; Solid Reasons for Senate Opposition to Controversial Nominees

President Bush’s campaign-style photo ops with judicial nominees pending in the Senate distort the real picture on federal judicial nominees, said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas today.

While the White House is touting a supposed “solution” to judicial nominations controversies that relies on strict timetables for votes, Neas said the White House has consistently resisted a real solution – genuine bipartisan consultation with senators resulting in more moderate nominees who can win broad support.

“Nominees like Terrence Boyle deserve to be fought,” said Neas. “If the President continues to nominate judges based on ideological extremism and an unwillingness to follow precedents, Senators should continue to oppose their confirmation.”

Neas said Boyle has aggressively used his position as a federal judge to advance his personal states’ rights ideology. “Fortunately, his most extreme attacks on the authority of Congress to protect individual rights have been rejected, including by the already conservative 4th Circuit,” said Neas. “Unfortunately, it is that court to which President Bush has nominated Boyle. If he were confirmed to that powerful position he could wreak havoc on civil rights enforcement and push the Fourth Circuit even further to the right.”

Neas noted that White House claims of unprecedented obstructionism fail to withstand serious scrutiny. During the last six years of President Bill Clinton’s tenure, when the Senate was controlled by Republicans, a full third of the President’s appeals court nominees were blocked, and most of them were denied even a vote in committee. Neas said that Senate Democrats who have mounted public filibusters against some extreme Bush nominees are engaged in a far more open and accountable practice than the secret blocks and refusal to schedule hearings that prevented some Clinton nominees from receiving a hearing for as long as four years.

Neas noted that President Bush has had a higher percentage of his judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate than President Clinton did in his first four years in office, and has had more appeals court nominees confirmed, some to vacancies that had been held open by the ideological blockade mounted against Clinton’s nominees.

Neas said the vacancies in the Sixth Circuit reflect a longstanding 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. Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have worked diligently to reach a fair compromise on filling those vacancies, but the White House has shown no interest in reaching a bipartisan solution.

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