Time to Invoke the "Thurmond Rule" on Bush Judicial Nominees
People for the American Way warns that Republicans are bringing pressure on Senators to confirm President Bush's remaining judicial nominees. It has written this letter(pdf) to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, suggesting the "Thurmond Rule" be invoked. From the letter:
There is no justification for the Judiciary Committee to accede to demands that it speed up the processing of controversial nominees, particularly at this point in a presidential election year. To the contrary, we believe the time has come for the Committee to invoke the Senate’s longstanding practice, popularly known as “the Thurmond Rule,” of processing only non-controversial judicial nominees during a significant portion of the year leading up to a presidential election. While there has never been a precise date upon which the Thurmond Rule is deemed to take effect, there is ample basis for the Committee to invoke that Rule now.
During much of President Clinton’s Administration, Republican leaders in the Senate blocked the President’s efforts to fill judicial vacancies, particularly on the Courts of Appeals, stranding 60 judicial nominees at the end of the Clinton presidency.2 Through such tactics as secret holds and refusals to schedule hearings or votes, Senate Republicans held judicial vacancies open literally for years in the hope that a Republican would be elected President.
As Senator Leahy recently described it, “[t]hey took the Thurmond rule to a whole new stage by utilizing it over a 5-year period, instead of the seven or eight months that normally takes place during a Presidential election year.”3 According to Senator Leahy, “[b]ecause of their irresponsible actions, vacancies in the courts rose to over a hundred. Circuit court vacancies doubled during the Clinton years because Republicans would not allow him to fill those vacancies.”4
President Bush’s judicial nominees have fared far better under Senator Leahy’s leadership....Under Senator Leahy’s leadership, the vacancy rate on the courts has been cut in half.5 After Senator Leahy assumed the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee last year, the Senate confirmed 40 judicial nominees, more than were confirmed in any of the years 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000 by a Republican-led Senate considering President Clinton’s nominees.6 To date, the Senate has already confirmed three quarters of President Bush’s Circuit Court nominees, while only half of President Clinton’s were confirmed.7 While we have not agreed with all of the Bush nominee confirmations, certainly no one can fault Senator Leahy or other Senate Democrats for not diligently moving on the President’s nominees. The contrary notion being propagated by some of the President’s supporters is simply groundless.
As to Bush's judicial nominees so far, PFAW reminds us:
Hundreds of judges named by President Bush, notes Kolbert’s letter, “are actively dismantling constitutional and statutory protections for workers, for consumers, for women, for minorities, and for the environment. They are closing the courthouse doors to ordinary Americans seeking justice, making it harder for individuals even to get a day in court when they have been wronged.”
“At this point in the active presidential election season, it is time for the Committee to say enough to such judges, not to speed up consideration of their nominations,” says the letter. “If President Bush cannot fill existing vacancies with mainstream, non-controversial nominees, then it should be up to the next President to do so.”
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