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Former Interior Department Solicitor William Myers III, President George W. Bush’s nominee for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, showed up for his second visit to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning, where he faced a predictable round of sympathetic questions from Republicans and withering criticism from Democrats. Myers, who has been dogged by controversy over environmental and Indian land-use positions he had taken while both a lobbyist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and an Interior Department solicitor, was first nominated nearly two years ago. A hearing was held during the last Congress, but his supporters were seven votes shy of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster on his nomination. Tuesday’s hearing was led by the committee’s new chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who said that this time, the Senate was only two votes short of the necessary 60. Specter has made clearing the deadlock on judicial nominations one of his priorities. Democrats filibustered 10 circuit court nominees, including Myers, in the last Congress. Seven of them were renominated by Bush last month. It is unclear whether Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will filibuster Myers’ nomination again once it is voted out of the Judiciary Committee later this month. Myers’ environmental troubles stem in part from a multitude of writings on environmental land use, including statements in which Myers apparently criticized “a fallacious belief that centralized government can promote environmentalism.” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked Myers, “So are you saying that you didn’t believe these things or you were just representing the cattlemen?” adding, “Do you believe these statements: ‘Environmental legislation harms the very environment it purports to protect.’” Myers said that he was complaining about a one-size-fits-all environmental policy, a “blunt-sword approach,” and that “sometimes” and “on occasion,” what he had written was, in fact, the truth. “You left out the ‘sometimes’ and the ‘on occasion,’” Schumer responded dryly. Myers was also closely questioned about a recent Interior Department inspector general’s report that raised questions about an alleged sweetheart deal for a rancher with political connections. The deal allegedly took place under Myers’ watch. Because the 9th Circuit contains hundreds of millions of acres of public land, environmentalists have launched a particularly strong campaign against Myers, whose views, they say, are way beyond mainstream conservative. His supporters, on the other hand, counter that Myers is a passionate outdoorsman. “I’ve spent a lot of my free time working for the environment,” he told the committee at one point, adding that “what people are doing while they’re not on the clock” is equally important, if not more important, as what they do while they’re working. “I’ve been an advocate for my clients,” Myers said. “If confirmed, I’d be an advocate for the law.” Myers is from Idaho, one of nine states in the 9th Circuit, and was introduced by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

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