April 21, 2006

Upcoming judicial debate.

In Congress Daily yesterday Majority Leader Frist made official (see below) that he plans to bring appellate nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Terry Boyle to a vote in May. This may mark the beginning of a sustained push on nominees going into November, which, if done right, will elevate Republican turnout and remind undecideds why they don’t trust Democrats.

Remember, Democrats have seats to defend in red and purple states including North Dakota, Nebraska, Florida, West Virginia, New Mexico, Delaware, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. And Republicans need a motivated base plus sympathetic independents in Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

For more on the nominees, see the White House talkers on Boyle and Kavanaugh.

Frist Ready To Tee Up The Next Floor Fight Over Judges

by Greta Wodele

Senate Majority Leader Frist wants to bring two controversial judicial nominees to the Senate floor in May -- a strategic move that GOP strategists and aides say would help energize the Republican base and fundraising efforts heading into the November elections. A Frist aide said Tuesday the majority leader is considering scheduling votes next month on President Bush's long-stalled nominations of U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and White House aide Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Democrats adamantly oppose both nominees, along with nearly a dozen other Bush nominations. Partisan tension over Bush's judicial picks peaked last May when Frist threatened the so-called nuclear option -- a change in parliamentary procedures to stop minority filibusters of judicial nominees. A group of 14 senators -- seven Republicans and seven Democrats -- formed a pivotal coalition that persuaded both sides to avoid a showdown. The group said senators should not filibuster a president's nominee except under "extraordinary circumstances," which cleared the way for the Senate to approve several nominees.

The battle riled up voters in both parties last year -- and Frist apparently is aiming for similar results. "Frist's successful fight on circuit judges last year energized the base and contributed to small donor giving for Senate Republicans," said one GOP leadership aide today. "Future fights on pending circuit court nominees over the next few months will show voters the difference between Senate Republicans and the obstructionist Senate Democrats." Democrats, for their part, are prepared to engage their GOP counterparts. "These are two controversial nominees that can expect strong opposition from the Democratic Caucus,"Minority Leader Reid 's spokesman said today. Democrats plan to frame Frist's tactic as catering to the conservative GOP base in hope of bolstering a potential presidential bid in 2008. "It can be viewed as part of the Bill Frist presidential campaign of throwing a little red meat to the base," said Reid's spokesman. He added that Democrats could also benefit from another fight this year. "I think it's probably equal," he said, referring to how the issue could energize Democratic voters.

Whether Boyle and Kavanaugh can get a floor vote next month remains up in the air. Senate Judiciary Democrats last month wrote Judiciary Chairman Specter requesting another hearing on Kavanaugh's nomination before the committee votes, pointing to recent revelations that Bush authorized warrantless wiretaps. Kavanaugh at the time worked in the White House Counsel's office. Democrats also have argued that Kavanaugh -- a former assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr -- is a partisan loyalist who lacks judicial experience. Bush first nominated Kavanaugh in July 2003, but his nomination languished in the 108th Congress. The president renominated Kavanaugh in January. Boyle's nomination languished before the Senate Judiciary Committee for nearly four years before the panel last June sent the nomination to the floor. All eight Judiciary Democrats voted against his nomination, citing his record on civil rights.