The Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Bush's controversial
nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit William
Myers on a party-line vote, setting the stage for a floor
showdown in a controversy that centers around the nominee's
environmental record, marking the first time the environment
has played a prominent role in blocking a nominee, sources
At an April 1 meeting, the committee voted 10-9 to send Myers'
confirmation to the full Senate. Environmentalists say the
unanimous opposition to Myers by Democrats on the panel indicates
the party will likely seek to filibuster a floor vote in the
Republican-controlled Senate, as it has for other controversial
"When there has been a vote by every single Democrat
[on the committee] against a judicial nominee, it has been
blocked on the floor," said Glenn Sugameli of the group
Earthjustice, during a March 31 conference call with reporters.
A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD)
said leadership will meet with the Democratic caucus this
week to talk about a possible filibuster. Daschle has warned
Bush that he will see no progress on confirming appeals court
nominees unless he puts forward less controversial choices.
Myers' record includes efforts to roll back public lands protections
on behalf of the energy industry, according to Judiciary Committee
ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who submitted a
six-page opening statement calling Myers an "anti-environmental
activist." Myers previously served as solicitor general
for the Department of Interior under the Bush administration,
and before that he worked as a lawyer on behalf of the livestock
and mining industries.
"The Bush administration has already proposed more rollbacks
to our environmental safeguards, aiming to benefit industry
at the expense of the public's interest in clean air and water,
our public lands, and some of our most fragile wildlife populations,"
Leahy said in his statement. "While today we have a federal
judiciary which has in many instances prevented this administration's
attempts to roll back important environmental laws and protections,
in the future we may not be so fortunate." Relevant documents
are available on InsideEPA.com.
Doug Kendall of the Community Rights Council said during the
conference call that if Democrats are successful in blocking
the Myers nomination, it would be "historic" and
would mark the first time a judicial nominee was held up due
to his anti-environment record. Kendall noted that many controversial
nominations center around social policies like abortion, but
he suggested that environmental protection is a less-divisive
wedge issue and enjoys broad public support.
Kendall also predicted that a fight over Myers could become
a referendum on the Bush administration's environmental policies
as the November election approaches. "If the Myers fight
convinces the public that judges favor corporations over the
public," he said, then this will become "a very
large problem for the president."
Forty-one House lawmakers from 9th Circuit states also sent
a March 31 letter to Leahy and Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch
(R-UT) urging them to reject Myers. This letter is an unusual
move given that the House plays no role in confirming judges.
"Specifically, we believe that Mr. Myers' relative lack
of judicial experience, combined with his marked hostility
toward the vital role the federal government plays in safeguarding
our environment - especially in California and the West --
do not reflect the qualifications and values that a federal
court judge should embody," the letter says.
The Bush administration has accused Senate Democrats of stonewalling
the judicial process by holding up several contentious nominees
already. The White House says all of these nominees are highly
qualified, and President Bush has appointed two during congressional
In the case of Myers, Democrats charge that he holds extreme
environmental positions that broadly favor private property
rights over the protection of endangered species and wetlands.
However, Myers argued in written comments to the committee
that he will uphold legal precedent regardless of his personal