meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee dissolved in acrimony
Thursday as Democrats walked out in a dispute
Bush's nomination of federal judges. At issue was what are called
"blue slips," which have traditionally been used by senators
from the home state of any nominee to scuttle nominations of judicial
candidates they oppose. Democrats on the committee want the objection
of a single home-state senator to be sufficient to scuttle a nomination.
Republican chairman Orrin Hatch, however, while conceding that any
single senator's opposition would be a factor in considering a nomination,
resisted the Democratic proposal.
itself had been called to vote on the nominations of four Justice
Department officials. Among them are solicitor general designate
Theodore Olson, and deputy attorney general designate Larry Thompson.
The nominations are now in limbo because Democrats left the meeting
in the dispute over blue slips.
you to understand how crazy this is," Hatch said after ranking
minority member Patrick Leahy and other Democrats walked out. "They
want an absolute right to veto presidential nominations."
Leahy and the
Democrats say they simply want to continue a policy that Hatch followed
when dealing with Clinton-administration judicial nominees. Hatch
says he has, with very few exceptions, followed what he called a
"Biden standard," after previous Democratic chairman Joe
Biden, which allowed nominations to go forward even if one home-state
In one particularly
sharp exchange, New York Democrat Charles Schumer demanded a greater
role in the nomination process, prompting Hatch to snap, "Do
you want me to be chairman, or do you want me to be your puppet?"
he expects the White House to send the names of about 15 judges,
all candidates for circuit courts of appeal, to the committee by
the end of next week. As of now, the blue-slip situation remains
unresolved, and the immediate fate of those nominations is unclear.
"Orrin, I'll tell you this frankly," Schumer said. "If
we don't resolve this before we start [considering the nominations],
we'll never resolve it."