Partisan Push Advances Appeals Court Nominees McKeague and Griffin

The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted along party lines to advance the controversial nominations of David McKeague and Richard Griffin of Michigan to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

“By pushing the 6th Circuit nominees, President Bush has shown once again that he is determined to be a divider, not a uniter,” said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way, “and Senator Hatch has shown once again that he is ready and willing to enable the President’s scorched-earth policy of uncompromising, partisan judicial nominations.”

Committee Chairman Hatch pushed for the votes on these nominees over the objections of home-state Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, who have worked diligently but unsuccessfully to get the White House to reach a fair bipartisan compromise on filling 6th Circuit vacancies that were perpetuated by a GOP blockade during the Clinton administration. Prior to 2001, the nominations of several moderate and well-qualified individuals to the 6th Circuit were never acted upon by the Committee or the Senate, including the nomination of one individual who waited more than four years without even a hearing. The White House has shown no interest in reaching a bipartisan solution.

The Committee’s action on these nominees violates Committee policy prior to 2001, including during the Clinton administration by Senator Hatch. Under pre-2001 Committee practice, the continued objection of even one home-state Senator would have prevented further processing of the nominations. In addition, proceeding with these nominations violated the so-called Thurmond rule, a long-standing Committee practice under which only non-controversial nominees are processed and approved during a presidential election year, particularly this late in the year.

For these reasons, People For the American Way, in a letter to the Committee dated June 14, 2004, had urged the Committee not to proceed with the McKeague and Griffin nominations. In addition to the concerns of Senators Levin and Stabenow and the Committee’s own processes, which should have precluded action on the nominations, PFAW noted that the nominees’ records raised troubling questions on civil rights, environmental, and other matters.

Today’s vote on McKeague and Griffin comes on the heels of the Committee’s partisan vote in June on the nomination of Henry Saad, also to the 6th Circuit.

Neas added that “today’s vote looks like part of a crass election year strategy. We fear that by forcing votes on highly controversial nominees who should not be confirmed, the Republicans are attempting to further engineer false charges that the Democrats are obstructing the nominations process.”

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