Theres been an important victory in the Senate Judiciary Committee where Catharina Haynes was approved for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She cleared the Committee on a voice vote and her nomination now goes before the full Senate. But this advancement did not occur without some interesting political give-and-take.
As you know, the ACLJ has been working on Capitol Hill to get all of President Bushs judicial nominees fair consideration before the Senate. Unfortunately, theres been a real logjam and many of the Presidents nominations have been put on hold some on the waiting list for more than a year.
Drew Ryun, our Director of Government Affairs, attended the hearing before the Judiciary Committee and told me that Judiciary Chairman Sen. Leahy received some very pointed questions from Committee members about the pace and fairness of the confirmation process.
In fact, at one point, Sen. Brownback repeatedly told Sen. Leahy that if judicial nominees continue to be blocked, you know how this will end up. That comment comes as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Hill newspaper in
Were certainly not happy with the situation, and a lot of different options to respond to that are under consideration, Sen. McConnell told The Hill when asked about whether he was open to bringing the chambers business to a halt.
The Hill also quoted Sen. McConnell as saying: Weve made no decisions on where we go from here. But there is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction about the way circuit court nominees have been treated.
Further, Sen. Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill newspaper that it was a possibility that a legislative move could be made to bring Senate business to a standstill. I think its a possibility, Sen. Specter told the newspaper. I would not like to see it done since we have so much important business, but we also have to get federal judges confirmed.
During yesterdays hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Cornyn reminded Sen. Leahy that he had promised him a vote on Catharina Haynes, a nominee for the Fifth Circuit. Finally, before the hearing concluded, Sen. Leahy relented and asked for a voice vote on the nomination. With a majority of "ayes," Haynes was voted out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
One year ago, I thought that if we filled three of the vacancies on the Fifth Circuit with well-qualified judges, it would be a real victory. Last summer we saw Jennifer Elrod confirmed to the Fifth Circuit, followed by a fight over Judge Leslie Southwick, who was confirmed in September. With Haynes clearing the Judiciary Committee, were well on our way to seeing that third vacancy filled in this important circuit. We expect Haynes to clear the full Senate with a voice vote.
The fact is, the fight over judicial nominees will only get tougher during this election year. We remain committed, though, to work to ensure that these nominees get the consideration they deserve. No doubt, there will be more political twisting and turning over this issue in the months ahead.
We will keep you posted as developments unfold with this matter and other key issues on Capitol Hill.