Some anniversaries are good, others are bad. Today, for example, is my parents’ 44th wedding anniversary. That good kind of anniversary marks something that should continue. Today is also the first anniversary of President Bush’s first batch of 11 appeals court nominations. Had the Senate done its duty and confirmed them long ago, this too would have been a good anniversary. Instead, because eight of them have been denied even a Judiciary Committee hearing, it’s a bad anniversary marking something that should have ended rather than something that should continue.
President Bush started making judicial nominations three months earlier than previous new presidents. He made a record 65 nominations last year and a record 100 so far. That first batch of nominees on May 9, 2001, had credentials to please even the liberal American Bar Association, and both women and minorities to please the diversity crowd. What’s not to like?
Apparently quite a bit, at least if you are a Senate Democrat. Of the three who were confirmed, two were from states with two Democrat senators, and President Clinton had originally nominated the third. So, let’s see, Senate Democrats target for obstruction nominees from states represented by Republicans and whose nomination originated with President Bush. Is it possible, just possible, that this obstruction is just a wee bit partisan?
Senate Democrats, of course, reel in horror at such a thought and have had an excuse a week for the judicial vacancy crisis they have caused. They blame Osama bin Laden, yet President Bush had made 53 nominations by Sept. 11 and, today, nearly eight months later, the Senate has still not confirmed even that many.
They even blame the Republicans who ran the Senate years ago. Nearly 16 months into President Bush’s term and a year into Democrat Senate control, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says Republicans who held up Clinton nominees have caused the current crisis.
This one is a head-scratcher. Republicans did not do nearly what Democrats blame them for, but it doesn’t matter. How are Republicans a few years ago responsible for Democrats refusing to confirm President Bush’s nominees today? Vacancies have actually gone up nearly 10 percent since President Bush took office and last year – under Democrat, not Republican leadership – the confirmation rate was the lowest for a new president’s first year in a quarter-century. How did Republicans cause that?
Vacancies were higher than today in only 11 of the 77 months (1995 through May 2001) that Republicans ran the Senate, 94 percent of it under Democrat President Clinton. Vacancies averaged 72 in those years, more than 30 percent below the level since Democrats took over last June.
Sen. Leahy’s left-wing interest group allies dutifully repeat this ridiculous charge. (Actually, it’s probably the other way around – they created it and Sen. Leahy dutifully repeated it. They just let him speak first). Ralph Neas of the leftist People for the American Way said in a May 3 statement that the vacancy crisis “was created by Senate Republicans, who blocked 35 percent of President Clinton’s circuit court nominees while they controlled the Senate.”
Even if that’s true, it may explain the initial vacancies but not Democrats’ refusal to fill them. President Bush has so far made 36 percent more appeals court nominations than his three predecessors, but the Senate has confirmed 67 percent fewer of them. No matter what caused the vacancies, President Bush has supplied the nominees to fill them and Democrats refuse. Their partisan finger points right back at themselves.
Today is more a memorial than an anniversary. The situation is so bad, and Senate Democrats so partisan, that even the liberal Washington Post recently said the Senate should “give them hearings.” As President Bush said on May 3, this blockade “is endangering the administration of justice in America.”