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Top Republicans are apparently maneuvering for control of the process for selecting federal judges and U.S. Attorneys in New York, after the election threw the traditional system into turmoil. Several weeks ago, Representative Benjamin A. Gilman, R-Orange County, announced that since he is the senior Republican in New York’s congressional delegation, he would take the lead, but would give New York’s Gov. George Pataki a voice as well. More recently, Pataki’s office sent a memo to the delegation suggesting that the governor would play the lead role, serving as something as a Republican funnel or gatekeeper for recommendations to be forwarded to President Bush. How it all works out remains to be seen, but the implications for judicial selections and U.S. Attorney appointments in New York are profound. It also raises a question of what role New York’s two Democratic senators will have in the process, if any. For nearly a quarter-century, U.S. judges and prosecutors have been appointed based on a deal brokered in the mid-1970s by recently retired Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat. Under the deal, the senator whose party controls the White House would recommend three of every four U.S. judges in New York and all four U.S. Attorneys. However, U.S. Attorneys who were already confirmed to a four-year term would generally not be replaced. That formula no longer works because for the first time since the early 1960s, neither of New York’s senators is of the same party as the president. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton are both Democrats, and President Bush is a Republican. As the senior Republican member of the New York delegation, Congressman Gilman recently claimed that he would take the lead and, as a courtesy to Pataki, would accept input from Albany. Since then, however, the Pataki Administration has notified the congressional delegation that the governor expects to be out front in the process. Brad Card, chief of staff to Representative John Sweeney, a second-term Republican and former top assistant to Pataki, said the congressman was recently notified that the governor plans to form an advisory committee to consider nominees and intends the governor’s office to serve as a “repository” for the recommendations of other Republicans. “My understanding is everybody will have an opportunity to have their voice heard,” Card said. “I don’t think anybody is going to have a veto power. I don’t think the governor intends to be vetoing who the members [of Congress] request. This is just a place where people will be passing along their requests to the [Bush] Administration.” Gilman’s spokesman, Andrew Zarutskie, said: “We have been in touch with the governor’s office and, as I understand it, we are going to be working in a cooperative fashion. We haven’t worked out the mechanics of that yet.” Michael Brady, spokesman for Representative Reynolds, said he would expect both the governor and Gilman to have significant roles. “Without the benefit of a Republican senator, we would expect the Bush White House to look to both the congressional delegation and the governor for opportunities,” Brady said. Gilman is “the dean of that delegation.” he said. EAR OF PRESIDENT No matter who claims control, the real question is to whom the president will listen. And Monday, one well-placed Republican with high-level connections in Albany and Washington said the tentative game plan is for the governor to solicit names from the congressional delegation on a regional basis and then forward recommendations to the White House. “The governor’s got a tremendous relationship with the White House and he will be the main clearinghouse, with input by region,” the source said. Under that scenario, for instance, Representative Gilman could have a voice in recommendations for the Mid-Hudson region, Representative Sweeney could recommend candidates for the Northern District, and Representative Thomas M. Reynolds from the Buffalo area could take the lead in the Western District. The governor’s potential role in the process has fueled speculation that his counsel, James McGuire, is in line to become U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. McGuire has declined to either confirm or deny that he is a candidate for the position now held by Mary Jo White. Neither the president nor the governor responded Tuesday to requests for comment.

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