Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday shot
down the possibility of a compromise on President Bush's federal
appeals courts nominees, saying that any candidate who Democrats
filibustered during the previous Congress will be blocked
again this year.
"Unless there is something new that I'm not aware of
... we will vote the same way we have in the past," Reid
Reid's comments all but eliminate the possibility that Republicans
will be able to confirm some of President Bush's more controversial
nominees without implementing the "nuclear option."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) declined to say
whether he has the votes needed to pass the controversial
rule change that would end the use of a filibuster as a tool
to block judicial nominations. Frist has repeatedly threatened
to use such a tactic, but it remains unclear whether he has
enough support within his own caucus to modify the chamber's
Several moderate Republicans have come out in opposition to
the "nuclear option" and several veteran senators
have declined to take a stance on the issue.
Reid said he does not know if there were 51 votes for Frist's
plan, but said he is "hopeful some of the Republicans
will see this is not a good option."
The spat over judicial nominations comes one day after President
Bush formally renominated 12 candidates for federal appeals
courts that were not confirmed by the Senate during the last
session. Democrats filibustered the majority of those nominees,
although a handful never reached the Senate floor.
Democrats attacked Bush's action, arguing that it demonstrated
the White House and Senate Republicans had little interest
in reaching a compromise on the issue. First and other Senate
Republicans argued that the chamber has a constitutional responsibility
to hold a vote on the nominees.
"These are individuals that have majority support,"
Frist has not yet talked to Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen
Specter (R-Pa.) about a schedule or strategy for handling
the nominees. Specter has indicated that former Interior Department
Solicitor William Myers, a nominee to the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals, would be the first candidate considered
by the committee, in an effort to test the water on whether
some sort of compromise is possible with the Democrats. Myers
is often viewed as one of the less controversial of the blocked
nominees, although his nomination is vigorously opposed by
many environmental groups.
Some of those groups yesterday seized on a letter <http://www.communityrights.org/Devaney2-10-05.pdf>
from the Interior Department inspector general that they say
further demonstrates Myers is unfit to sit on the federal
bench. The letter -- sent last week by Inspector General Mark
Devaney to the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER) -- summarizes a complete but not yet released investigation
concerning a settlement between Wyoming rancher Harvey Frank
Robbins Jr. and the Bureau of Land Management.
The investigation stems from an agreement reached between
BLM and Robbins absolving Robbins from penalties associated
with past violations of grazing laws and stopping future enforcement
actions for similar violations. Lawyers from Interior's Office
of Solicitor -- then headed by Myers -- brokered the deal.
The IG's letter, which PEER made public yesterday, states
that in crafting the agreement "normal processes were
circumvented ... the concerns articulated by the Justice Department
and a BLM field office were ignored [and] the interests of
the BLM ... were not adequately protected by the terms of
the settlement agreement."
The letter further states that the investigation found "an
inappropriate level of programmatic involvement by the SOL,
and a profound lack of transparency in the overall negotiation
and agreement process."
BLM officials eventually voided the agreement because Robbins
failed to comply with it.
PEER, along with Earthjustice and the Community Rights Counsel,
sent a letter yesterday to Specter asking that the full Judiciary
Committee conduct a "full evaluation of this new information"
when considering Myers' nomination.
Click here <http://www.communityrights.org/Devaney2-10-05.pdf>
to download a copy of the IG's letter.