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Dems will shut down judicial confirmations

By Thomas L. Jipping
web posted June 18, 2001

Now that Democrats have taken over Senate control, they will shut down the confirmation process for President Bush's judicial nominees.

Democrats attempt to justify their planned scorched-earth obstruction campaign by suggesting or claiming that Republicans blocked, stalled, and obstructed President Clinton's judicial nominees for the last six years. Though repeated and reported ad nauseum, this claim is false.

President Clinton appointed 374 judges while confronting a Republican Senate for six of his eight years in office. President Reagan, by comparison, appointed 378 judges while also confronting a Republican Senate for six of his eight years in office. Seems Republican control of the Senate has little effect on overall confirmations.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, takes over as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 6, from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, takes over as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 6, from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left

Senate Democrats continuing making claims that are completely, factually false. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont claimed a few weeks ago that Republicans had blocked 167 Clinton nominees. A report from the Congressional Research Service, however, confirms that no more than 102 nominees named from 1995-2000 remained unconfirmed. That's a margin of error of nearly 65 per cent, which I suppose may not be bad for politicians but is obviously just another lie.

Senate Democrats might better use their own past performance as the precedent for their impending obstruction campaign. That same CRS report showed that the Democrat Senate confirmed 92 per cent of judicial nominees by Democrat President Jimmy Carter during 1977-1980, but just 80 per cent of judicial nominees by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush during 1987-1992.

If past is prologue, Democrats may well set a record this year for the fewest confirmations. They would have to break their own mark, set the last time Democrats ran the Senate during the first year of a Bush presidency. In 1989, the Senate confirmed just 15 Bush nominees.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle is telling some whoppers as well. He recently claimed that the Republican Senate blocked more than 45 per cent of President Clinton's appeals court nominees. Assistant Majority Leader Harry Reid went even further, claiming on CNN's that Republicans had blocked 55 per cent of Clinton's appeals court nominees.

Again consulting the Congressional Research Service, this time a report issued this past February, shows this too is a lie. During the 104th-106th Congresses, from 1995-2000, when Republicans controlled the Senate, President Clinton nominated 71 individuals to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He withdrew three of them himself. Of the remaining 68 nominees, 21 were not confirmed. That's 31 per cent. Mr. Daschle has a margin of error of 45 per cent while Mr. Reid blew it by a mere 77 per cent. There's a bunch more reasons why this is all fake, made-up, whooey but I'll leave it at that.

The reason the big lie is so important is that Mr. Daschle wants Senate Republicans, President Bush, and the American people to feel good about whatever confirmation scraps the new majority wishes to provide. He wants us to think they are gracious, magnanimous, and yes even fair in doing whatever they choose to do. Quoted by the New York Times, Mr. Daschle said "most" judicial nominees would receive a "fair chance" at Senate consideration. This is, of course, not a concession or even a compromise at all, let alone any sort of guarantee of fairness.

The Democrats, after all, define what "most" is and this category will be as small or large as they want it to be - precisely the same outcome as before Mr. Daschle said these words.

The bottom line is that Democrats are going to shut down the confirmation process and hope that these lies, red herrings, gimmicks, and games will distract people long enough or lull us into thinking they are actually after fairness. Don't take the bait.

Thomas L. Jipping is the Director of the Judicial Selection Monitoring Project at the Free Congress Foundation

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Waiting for the judicial nominations to begin by Thomas L. Jipping (April 16, 2001)
    Thomas L. Jipping is confident that George W. Bush will appoint judges more interested in interpreting present law than making new law
  • Judging Bush's judges by Thomas L. Jipping (March 26, 2001)
    Thomas L. Jipping has some cautious praise for President George W. Bush's judicial nominations, ones that are better than Texas Gov. George W. Bush's judicial nominations

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