February 01, 2008

Specter: Voters Want End to Judges Feud

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Sen. Arlen Specter observes that, “If the presidential primaries are any indication, Americans of every political stripe are rejecting reflexive partisanship” and suggests that his Senate colleagues do the same when it comes to judicial nominees. Specter notes that “some Senate Democrats oppose particular nominees because they feel some of President Clinton's nominees were treated unfairly,” but concludes that “we can make no progress in the Senate or in the nation if we keep talking about perceived wrongs and behaving like the feuding Hatfields and the McCoys.”

No one can reasonably accuse Sen. Specter of asking for too much. He requests that “at a bare minimum, nominees received from the president in 2007 deserve a committee hearing and a vote before the end of 2008.”

Specter notes that “one nominee in particular deserves immediate attention,” namely D.C. Circuit nominee Peter Keisler. As Specter explains,
“Keisler's nomination has been pending for over 580 days without a committee vote – even though he had a hearing in August 2006. Mr. Keisler . . . most recently provid[ed] much needed leadership as Acting Attorney General following Alberto Gonzales's resignation. The American Bar Association has unanimously given Mr. Keisler its highest rating, ‘well qualified.’ The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post editorialized in favor of his confirmation.”
Specter calls for “a truce in the partisan grudge match that has done such a disservice to judicial nominees, to the legal system, and to the Senate itself.” We note that, with the party affiliation of the next president up in the air, there can be no fairer time to call a truce. While that’s easier said than done, one possibility is bipartisan agreement on unambiguous standards of timeliness and fairness intended to endure no matter which party controls the White House. In fact, the President suggested just that during his first term, when he proposed a “strict deadline, which will apply no matter who is President and which party controls the Senate.”

When the president made that proposal in October 2002, Senate Democrats balked. But given the imminent presidential election and voters’ increasing demand for less partisanship, maybe Democrats are ready to seriously consider Sen. Specter’s call for a truce.

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