(CNSNews.com) - Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said Wednesday he has the backing of at least 14 Republican senators in his effort to block confirmation of all Clinton judicial nominees next year. Inhofe said his move is a response to President Clinton's violation of an agreement on recess appointments.
"I can confirm that at least 14 of the 17 senators who signed a November 10 letter to the President on this issue will stand firm in carrying out our promise to place holds on all judicial nominees next year in response to the President's violation of the agreement on recess appointments," Inhofe said in a statement on Capitol Hill.
Inhofe noted that the Nov. 10 letter to the President stated in part: "If you do make recess appointments during the upcoming recess, which violate the spirit of our agreement, then we will respond by placing holds on all judicial nominees. The result would be a complete breakdown in cooperation between our two branches of government on this issue which could prevent the confirmation of any such nominees next year."
On Tuesday, President Clinton's Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said Inhofe was wrong. "We made an agreement with Senator (Trent) Lott, we consulted with Senator Lott on the nominee in question, and it's really unfortunate, given what the Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist has said about the backlog in our courts and the need to move forward with judicial nominees, that you have a Senator, once again, starting a legislative session with more threats about how they can block appointees when I think most Americans know our judicial system needs progress rather than partisanship."
Inhofe was not happy with Lockhart's statement. "The President is going to have a problem confirming judges next year. And it is a problem of his own making. When he chose to violate our agreement on recess appointments, he simultaneously chose to put in motion the efforts I announced Monday to block judicial confirmations."
Inhofe said there are no surprises here: "The President knew exactly what the response would be if he violated the agreement. He also knew exactly what constituted a violation. He knew specifically that the appointment he made Friday (Sarah Fox to the National Labor Relations Board) was such a violation. He knew these things because they were communicated to him in no uncertain terms on at least four separate occasions over the last six weeks."
Inhofe also announced the names of Senators who are helping to block Clinton judicial nominees. They are: Jesse Helms (R-NC); Mike Crapo (R-ID); Bob Smith (R-NH); George Voinovich (R-OH); Pete Domenici (R-NM); Phil Gramm (R-TX); Larry Craig (R-ID); Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Craig Thomas (R-WY); Rod Grams (R-MN); Conrad Burns (R-MT); Charles Grassley (R-IA); and Richard Shelby (R-AL).
Inhofe said he would continue attempts to contact additional senators in the days ahead.