Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mitchell Case Hits Sore Spot on Capitol Hill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mitchell Case Hits Sore Spot on Capitol Hill

Article excerpt

GEORGE MITCHELL was a sure thing, everybody said. The Senate majority leader was President Bill Clinton's first choice for the Supreme Court to replace Harry Blackmun. He was interested in the job and he was sure to sail through the confirmation process.

When it comes to predicting Supreme Court nominations, it seems that "everybody" could be anybody. Anybody, that is, who is close enough to the president so that his or her anonymous speculation can be published or broadcast. Such rumors are really all that we have to go on, because the White House steadfastly refuses to identify its top candidates.

In this case, "everybody" was wrong.

Late Monday, Mitchell told Clinton he preferred to spend the year working on health care and other legislative priorities.

He said he feared his work might suffer if he continued as majority leader during Judiciary Committee hearings and the Senate vote on whether to confirm him.

Health care and other bills are "going to require every bit of energy and effort and concentration that I have," he said.

To be sure, other considerations may be at work here. Mitchell is apparently a candidate for commissioner of baseball. Maybe he'd rather be in charge of Cards vs. Cubs than Roe vs. Wade.

But nobody in the Senate questioned the notion that leading a tough political fight on the Senate floor while facing days of questioning by a Senate committee would be a lot to handle, even for a popular leader like Mitchell.

That apparent conflict prompted Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., to make an impromptu speech to his colleagues on Thursday in which he once again bemoaned the grueling confirmation process for nominees to the court. He praised Mitchell as someone who has "everything that goes into a first-rate Supreme Court justice" and whom the Senate would unanimously approve.

If even Mitchell thinks he could not do his job and be confirmed at the same time, Danforth said, it is evidence that, "The way we are doing this . . …

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