Specter Rebuffs Democrats on Judiciary Hearings

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) told HUMAN EVENTS he would resist pressure from Democrats to hold new hearings on the judicial nominees that President Bush plans to soon renominate. Most of the nominees have already undergone questioning by members of the Judiciary Committee, leaving Specter with the option of bypassing another round of hearings and instead sending them to the floor for a vote.

“In general, I do not propose to have rehearings,” Specter said. “There would have to be an exceptional circumstance that would require a hearing. We’ve already had hearings.”

Specter, however, said he might subject two appellate court nominees–Defense Department counsel William Haynes and Brigham Young University counsel Thomas Griffith–to another round of hearings. Sparks are likely to fly over both nominees. Haynes’s first hearing came in November 2003, prior to the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Griffith, meanwhile, has run into trouble over an expired law license he forgot to renew. He had a sparsely attended hearing last November.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) scoffed at the idea Republicans would forgo hearings. “What is being suggested would make an already problematic process for these nominations even more troublesome,” said Jim Manley, staff director for the Senate Democratic Communications Center.

Even with Specter’s not planning to hold new hearings for the old nominees, the clock is ticking for Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), who promised to bring one of the Bush nominees to a vote on the Senate floor in February. The White House, however, has yet to submit the nominees to the Senate for consideration. Specter said he expects Bush to do so in “due course.” White House spokeswoman Erin Healy told HUMAN EVENTS: “The process is moving along. As soon as we have something to announce, we’ll let you know.”

Senate Republicans have refused to disclose who the first nominee to face a vote might be, but some view California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen as ideal. Brown was the first black woman to sit on California’s high court.

In a January 4 speech to open the 109th Congress, Frist said he wouldn’t hesitate to change Senate procedures if Democrats tried to filibuster the nominee, as they did to 10–including Brown and Owen–in the last Congress.