Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Reaches Deal on Judicial Confirmation Votes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senate Reaches Deal on Judicial Confirmation Votes

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate leaders in both parties have agreed to hold votes on 14 federal judicial nominees, averting a showdown over nominations that might have tied up floor time in the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the 14 nominees will receive confirmation votes by May 7. "It's crucial the bipartisan cooperation continue and the pace of confirmations move forward," he said Wednesday as he announced the plan on the Senate floor.

Mr. Reid had planned to force votes on 17 federal trial court judgeship nominees starting Wednesday after talks on a bipartisan accord to speed votes unraveled. The majority leader canceled that plan by afternoon in a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Twenty-two judicial nominees are pending before the Senate, and Mr. Reid wanted to require votes on all 17 district court candidates. A Senate Judiciary Committee voice vote approved nine lower-court picks last year.

Democratic aides said seven of the nominees should be confirmed by the Easter recess in April, four more by a recess set for early May and the final three immediately after that. In exchange, the Senate will begin debate on a jobs bill the Republican-controlled House passed.

Mr. Reid moved Monday to hold an up-or-down vote on the 14 nominees, noting that most of them had received unanimous Senate Judiciary Committee approval. He said all of them deserved swift confirmation.

But Mr. McConnell wanted the jobs bill to move first. "I assume these ... people already have a job; they're not unemployed," he said.

The jobs bill passed the House last week with Mr. Obama's support. The White House said Wednesday that it still supports the bill, but also backs a Reid plan to attach an Export-Import Bank reauthorization to the Senate version before sending it back to the House. There is some GOP objection to that.

Republicans hope the jobs bill will let them focus on the economy after a politically damaging fight over reproductive rights and religious freedom. Some Republicans saw the fight over judicial nominees as a way for Democrats to continue that debate.

Confirmations have become a sore point between the parties. …

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