New GOP group promotes judicial nominees
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray announced Tuesday he was forming a new group to pressure the Democratic-controlled Senate to approve President Bush's judicial nominees.
Gray, who was White House consel in the first Bush administration, said the newly formed Committee for Justice has the mission of defending and promoting the judicial confirmation process.
"Some nominees to the federal bench have been held up for more than a year," Gray said. "This not only threatens the integrity and process of the judiciary, but undermines the intent of the Constitution."
The Clinton White House complained about Republicans senators blocking its judicial nominees when the GOP was in the majority in that chamber. The Bush administration now has the same complaint about the Democratic-controlled Senate.
"The confirmation process has become politicized to an unprecedented degree, doing grave harm to our judicial system," Gray said. "The Senate leadership is blocking President Bush's nominees as a way of advancing a political and ideological agenda, in close coordination with some of the most left-wing groups in this country."
By Senate tradition, a senator may put a "hold" on a nomination for a judicial post affecting his state. Senators from both parties have made use of the process in the past decade.
"The Senate's constitutional role is to provide 'advice and consent' to the president's judicial nominees," he said. "Today's Senate Democrats, however, believe that any individual senator has a right to veto President Bush's nominees. This is an intolerable and unacceptable interpretation of the Constitution. One senator should not be able to decide for the remaining 49 states who should be sitting as a judge in those states."
Gray said committee members hope their efforts will counter those of the People for the American Way, a liberal lobbying group that has spent considerable resources on efforts to oppose conservative Bush nominees. The committee will buy advertising in the states of those senators who are holding up confirmations, Gray said.
He also presented a television advertisement criticizing Texas Democrat Ron Kirk for his opposition to Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, a Bush nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lobbyist Ed Rodgers and international trade lawyer Edwin Williamson, both members of the first Bush administration, joined Gray as founders of the new committee. Members include Republican Govs. John Engler of Michigan and Frank Keating of Oklahoma, former Sen. Connie Mack of Florida, former White House Counsel Fred Fielding and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour.
Democrats have disputed Republican accusations that they are unfairly holding up Bush's judicial nominations.
In May, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy said that in the 10 months of Democratic leadership in the Senate, that body confirmed 56 judges. That was more than were confirmed during each of the 12 months in the years 1996 through 2000, when Republicans controlled the Senate and Clinton was in the White House, said Leahy, D-Vermont.
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