(Talon News) — President George W. Bush figuratively threw down the gauntlet to Senate Democrats on Monday by resubmitting the names of 20 judicial nominees to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During the ceremony to swear in new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday, Bush said, “To maintain confidence in the legal system, we must ensure that judges faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. I’ve a constitutional responsibility to nominate well-qualified men and women for the federal courts — I have done so.”
“[T]he United States Senate must also live up to its constitutional responsibility,” the president added. “Every judicial nominee deserves a prompt hearing and an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle led the Democratic minority in blocking some high-profile nominations in the last congressional session, a role that some say led to his defeat last fall at the hands of new Republican Sen. John Thune.
Each nomination will be closely watched as it is passed out of the Republican controlled Judiciary Committee.
New Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is on record as being willing to take a stand against controversial nominees and said in a statement on Monday, “The president is at it again with the extremist judges.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) expressed his support for the nominees on Monday saying he is “pleased that the president has renominated these excellent women and men to serve on the federal bench.”
Frist expressed hope that Democrats will work with him to “get up-or-down votes on each nominee.”
Grassroots conservatives have lobbied Frist to change Senate rules by invoking what they refer to as the “nuclear option.” With a larger Senate majority of 55-45, Frist is thought to be considering forcing a rule change if Democrats insist on continuing to obstruct judicial nominations this session.
“The American people sent a strong message on November 2 against the obstructionist tactics that, unfortunately, we saw all too often in the past four years,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
A simple majority of 51 votes is needed to the change the rules while 60 is necessary to end a filibuster but Frist hopes Democrats will allow nominees to be voted on by the full Senate without rule changes.
In an interview with the Washington Times last week, Frist said, “We need to restore the over 200-year tradition and precedent of allowing every nominee of the president who has majority support an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Filibusters have traditionally been used by the Senate minority to block legislation, but Democrats raised the ante during Bush’s first term by using filibusters to block judicial nominees which is considered by many to be an unconstitutional use of the procedure.
The Constitution provides the Senate the right to “advise and consent” on nominees but many feel that the Senate exceeds that privilege by using the filibuster to prevent votes on nominees.
“The president looks like he is still more interested in picking fights than picking judges,” Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said, according to the Associated Press.
“The last thing the federal courts need is reactionary judges bent on rolling back basic constitutional rights,” Kennedy continued.
Judges renominated are as follows:
U.S. Courts of Appeals: 4th Circuit — Terrence W. Boyle, William James Haynes II.; 5th Circuit — Priscilla Richman Owen; 6th Circuit — David W. McKeague, Susan Bieke Neilson, Henry W. Saad, Richard A. Griffin; 9th Circuit — William Gerry Myers III.; 11th Circuit — William H. Pryor.
District of Columbia Circuit: — Janice Rogers Brown, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Thomas B. Griffith.
U.S. District Court: — J. Michael Seabright, Hawaii; Sean F. Cox, Thomas L. Ludingtonm Daniel P. Ryan, Eastern District, Michigan; Peter G. Sheridan, New Jersey; Paul A. Crotty, Southern District, New York; James C. Dever III, Eastern District, North Carolina; Robert J. Conrad, Western District, North Carolina.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) will bring up each nominee in committee where they will be voted on and are expected to be passed to the floor of the Senate.
No timetable or order of votes by the committee has been announced.