Magazine article Newsweek

The Waiting Game

Magazine article Newsweek

The Waiting Game

Article excerpt

Byline: Eleanor Clift

It has been two years since President George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen for federal judgeships. Senate Democrats have filibustered their nominations, and are set to draw out that of a third candidate, Carolyn Kuhl. But Republicans are trying to intimidate Democrats into confirming Bush's appointees. Senate leader Bill Frist has threatened to unleash his "nuclear option," a tricky legislative maneuver that would rewrite Senate rules to get rid of the filibuster for executive nominations. Two freshman Republicans, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Georgia's Saxby Chambliss, have vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the delay tactic, saying it goes beyond the Senate's role of "advise and consent." Democrats have even offered to amend the process. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has proposed depoliticizing nominations by having a nonpartisan consultative board advance names so that judges aren't ideological soul mates of presidents.

These ideas aren't going anywhere, however: the filibuster is here to stay. "Republicans... know someday the tables are going to turn, and when they're in the minority, they don't want to be without any weapons," says a Senate Democrat. And though Bush is losing a few nominations, overall he's making the courts conservative. The Senate has confirmed 124 Bush appointees, nearly all presumed pro-lifers. …

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