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Democrats appear poised to filibuster President Bush’s latest nominee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — William Myers III, former cattle industry lobbyist and current solicitor for the Interior Department. Myers cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on a 10-9 party line vote. His nomination now moves to the Senate floor, where he can expect to meet the same kind of opposition that has prevented Carolyn Kuhl from taking a spot on the 9th Circuit. Where Democrats oppose Kuhl because of arguments she once made against abortion, Myers has met resistance because of his environmental record as an attorney and lobbyist. “For 22 years, Mr. Myers has been an outspoken antagonist of long-established environmental protections, usually wearing the hat of a paid lobbyist for mining companies’ and grazing interests,” according to a statement from Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat. Neither Leahy’s office nor Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, would comment on whether Democrats indeed planned to filibuster Myers. Democrats have used that ploy and other procedural tactics to block six of Bush’s judicial nominees. The Senate has approved 171 others. At this point, it doesn’t look like the gridlock over nominees will be broken before the November election. Bush has exercised his power to make temporary appointments while Congress is in recess to get two blocked nominees on the bench. He’ll have another opportunity during legislators’ Easter break, which is scheduled for April 12 to 16. Margarita Tapia, spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, said no Democrats mentioned a filibuster at Thursday’s committee meeting. Even so, Republicans are worried about it. “The chairman feels that the Democrats should stop playing delay games,” Tapia said. Bush nominated Myers in May 2003. His hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee was two months ago. Myers’ resume includes working as a lobbyist for a livestock trade association. He also did litigation and legislative work at Holland & Hart in Boise, Idaho. Bush appointed him to the Interior Department in 2001. He has also worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He received a mixed rating from the American Bar Association: a majority of the committee voted him qualified, the rest said he wasn’t. Responding to Democrats’ concerns, Republicans say Myers is well-qualified for the bench but, like other judicial nominees, is under assault by left-wing special interests. “We will probably hear attacks on his record in private practice stemming from the types of clients he represented and the positions he took on their behalf — as if ranchers and those who make economic uses of Western lands are less entitled to representation than the big city, liberal environmental groups that attempt to dictate Western land policy while referring to most of our nation as ‘flyover country,’” said a statement released by Hatch’s office. At Thursday’s Judiciary meeting, Hatch also pointed out that Myers is a “nationally recognized” natural resources expert and is “an avid outdoorsman and a committed conservationist.” In slamming his record, Democrats point to a position Myers took in an amicus brief in a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Myers argued that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause did not support the Corps’ jurisdiction over remote waters that might be used by migratory birds. Leahy said Myers’ narrow view of the Commerce Clause undermines “our nation’s environmental, health, safety, labor, disability and civil rights laws.” Both parties accuse each other of improperly trying to use judicial positions to influence policy. Democrats charge Bush with trying to get an “activist” on the bench; Republicans say that concern shouldn’t even be brought into the debate. “The Constitution did not and does not establish federal courts as the policymaking branch of the government. Federal judges don’t make policy. And policy debates ought to have no place in our consideration of a nominee’s qualifications … unless we think that he or she doesn’t understand the proper role of federal judges,” Hatch said in his statement. “There is zero evidence that Bill Myers doesn’t understand that proper role.” Besides defending Myers’ by pointing to his record as an advocate, Hatch also took the opportunity to whip the 9th Circuit. He mentioned the Pledge of Allegiance case — tying support for the flag to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as well the death penalty, Three Strikes and the case of a prisoner who a three-judge panel at the 9th would have allowed to mail his sperm for artificial insemination. Hatch pointed out that 17 of the court’s 26 active judges were appointed by Democrats, saying that Myers will help bring “balance” to the “most notoriously liberal federal court.” For their part, Democrats don’t entirely disagree. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said he also believes the court leans too far left. “But nominating William Myers is like sticking a thumb in the eye of all senators who believe extremists have no place on the federal bench,” he said in a statement.

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