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August 31, 2006
Doubling Down

George Bush signaled yesterday that he will continue to fight for his judicial nominations. He sent the Senate the names of five judges previously nominated for appellate court positions, including at least one whom the Democrats had threatened to filibuster:

Bucking opposition in the Senate, President Bush on Wednesday nominated five people for the U.S. Court of Appeals, including one whom Democrats have threatened to block with a filibuster.

News that Bush had decided to nominate the conservative jurists came before Bush spoke at a fundraiser for Bob Corker, who faces a tough Senate race against Democratic nominee Harold Ford Jr.

"I need a U.S. senator who understands that we need people on the bench who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate," Bush said.

A White House statement said Bush was nominating Terrence Boyle of North Carolina and William James Haynes II of Virginia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Michael Brunson Wallace of Mississippi for the 5th Circuit, and William Gerry Myers III of Idaho and Norman Randy Smith of Idaho for the 9th Circuit.

Bush has been tenacious on judicial appointments. His renomination of judges filibustered in his first term led to the eventual rise of the Gang of 14, led by John McCain, that forced the White House to abandon at least one of its nominees (Henry Saad) to put an end to knee-jerk filibustering on the part of Senate Democrats. With McCain trying to curry favor among conservatives, the White House may have decided to make hay while the sun shines.

It also provides another reminder for conservatives to put aside their diffidence of late and turn out for the mid-term elections. The messaging here is not subtle, and Bush made it explicit in his appearance. He wants a safe Republican majority in the Senate in order to put his stamp on the judiciary, a traditional privilege of the Presidency until the Reagan administration and the nomination of Robert Bork. Harry Reid reacted predictably, calling the renominations "extremely divisive", although Reid must have dreaded the thought of going through another election cycle with a recent history of obstructionism.

In our interview with Bill Frist yesterday, the Senate Majority Leader said that he was prepared for a fight on judicial nominations. Frist said that "[f]ilibusters are a good tool for legislation, but not for nominations. Someone took the rule and bent it for their political advantage, and I broke it. They may try it again, and I’ll break it again." That sounds like a man expecting a fight, and this time McCain may find it more difficult to undercut him. He wants to convince conservatives to trust him, and abandoning conservative judges isn't the way to do it.

In any event, judicial nominations certainly are a legitimate political interest in the midterm elections, particularly since the Democrats have made their confirmation into such a partisan trial. Voters have a right to consider how a shift in power in the Senate will affect the judges Bush can appoint to the bench; six years of Democratic obstructionism has legitimized it. Whether it can draw back disaffected conservatives remains to be seen.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 31, 2006 5:15 AM

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