Bush Forgoes Recess Appointments to Get Nominees Approved

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - Senate Democrats agreed to lift their seven-week hold on President's Bush judicial nominees after reaching an agreement Tuesday with the White House that will halt the practice of congressional recess appointments for the remainder of the year.

Twenty-five nominees, all considered uncontroversial by Democrats, will be approved by the Senate in the next few weeks. Democrats, however, will continue to block a handful of judicial nominees they consider too conservative.

"I think the bottom line is that the administration surrendered," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Bloomberg News. "There will be no recess appointments."

Democrats used procedural tactics to block all nominees after Bush used his constitutional authority to seat two federal appeals court judges - Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. - during congressional recesses earlier this year.

Democrats were outraged at those appointments because they had successfully filibustered both Pryor's and Pickering's confirmations. Senate Republicans couldn't muster the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the Senate floor.

Former Justice Department attorney Miguel Estrada, the first nominee to face a filibuster, eventually pulled himself out of consideration as a result of the obstruction. Meanwhile, Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown continue to wait.

Republican senators expressed mixed reactions to Tuesday's breakthrough between Senate Democrats and the White House.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) criticized Democrats for attacking Bush's constitutional authority to make recess appointments, but he also wondered if the agreement would make a difference.

"My concern," Cornyn said, "is now that the Democrat obstructionists have successfully negotiated in exchange for their hostages, what will stop them from blocking all future nominees?

"What will stop future Congresses from employing similar tactics? When does it end? Now that their tactic is determined to be successful, I have no doubt but that it will be employed by others when the shoe is on the other foot," he said.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) took a more positive tone, telling Bloomberg News the agreement was "a very good deal for us because it does get more conservatives in the court."

The agreement didn't generate much enthusiasm from Jeffrey Mazzella, executive director of the Center for Individual Freedom, a group that has criticized the Democrat obstructionism.

Mazzella questioned whether the deal would accomplish much, if anything at all. He said during presidential election years, an average of eight appeals court nominees have been confirmed by the Senate since 1980. This deal would give five nominees votes, he said, with no guarantees that any more would be confirmed.

"These nominees, contrary to what Sen. Daschle believes, should have received consideration by the full Senate long ago," Mazzella said.

"What ultimately may be lost on the American people is the actual obstruction that continues to take place, as this deal, on its face, appears to do nothing but give Daschle and his cohorts fodder to continue to deflect the very real unfair treatment of all of the president's judicial nominees," he said.

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