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The gloves are off as Senate Republicans prepare for battle against their Democratic peers over judicial nominations. Republicans are frustrated by the prospect that President George W. Bush will leave office with fewer judge picks on the bench than his fellow two-term presidents, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. Even as talks continue between both sides, Republicans say they plan to slow down legislation, obstruct routine Senate business, and frustrate quorums to get the Democrats’ attention. Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, has attended strategy sessions with GOP senators: “The hope is that you threaten these things and Democrats get the message.” In floor speeches last week, Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who oversees the Senate Judiciary Committee, for “slow-walking” judicial nominees, particularly appellate court candidates. Specter proposed quicker turnaround on nominees, especially those who have support from their home state senators. Ten of 28 pending judicial nominees are for appellate judgeships, including Catharina Haynes, a Baker Botts partner in Dallas nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Haynes is scheduled for a vote in committee on March 13. Republicans fault Leahy for holding just one hearing for an appellate court nominee between September and February. Leahy last week said his “patience is wearing thin,” and shot back saying he had no quorum at two meetings he scheduled in February for votes on district judges. Leahy also said while chairing the Judiciary Committee for 17 months during Bush’s first term, he helped confirm 100 judges. “I would rather see us work together … so that we can confirm judges rather than fight about them.”
Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be contacted at [email protected].

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