Senate Republicans have sent a letter to President Barack Obama, warning that they will oppose any nominees for the federal judiciary who do not have the approval of home-state senators and asking Obama to re-nominate a couple choices of George W. Bush.
The letter notes that Bush re-nominated two of Bill Clinton’s picks eight years ago: Judge Roger Gregory, now of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, and Judge Barrington Parker, now of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. “It would help change the tone in Washington if your Administration would take the same bipartisan step,” says the letter, dated Monday and signed “All Republican Senators.”
And, the letter adds, “there are plenty of well-qualified nominees with bipartisan support from whom to choose.” It mentions Sidley Austin partner Peter Keisler, who was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and also served briefly as acting attorney general. Keisler “has been praised repeatedly by colleagues in both the public and private sector, Democrats and Republicans, and has earned accolades from major media observers, like The Washington Post,” the letter says.
Two other Bush nominees named in the letter are U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad of the Western District of Virginia, nominated to the 4th Circuit, and U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
Obama has not said whether he intends to nominate Republicans to the federal bench. The White House did not have an immediate comment today.
The Republicans’ letter also references suggestions from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he might give less weight to the input of nominees’ home-state senators. Judiciary chairmen have varied in their adherence to the “blue slip” tradition, and Leahy has not said how much he will follow the tradition the next two years.
“We hope your Administration will consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states. Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee,” the GOP senators wrote. They added that they would “act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues” if Leahy does not observe it. (Hat tip: CQ)
UPDATE (12:09 p.m.): Kathryn Kolbert, president of the liberal People for the American Way, is responding to the letter, saying it cements the Republicans as the “Party of No.” “Voters gave President Obama a mandate to appoint judges who understand that the Constitution and the laws provide for equal justice for all. Now, before a single nomination has been announced, Republicans are threatening to block every single one of Obama’s nominees. That’s chutzpah,” she says in a statement.
UPDATE II (12:24 p.m.): Wendy Long, counsel for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, is also responding, praising Republicans’ “remarkable show of strength and resolve.” “The letter makes clear that if the Administration and Senate Democrats do not engage in such bipartisan reciprocity, the Republicans will be united in their unwillingness to tolerate such hypocrisy and raw partisanship,” Long says in a statement.