Frist: One and Done on Judicial Nominees?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) yesterday hosted a half-hour conference call with conservative activists in an attempt to placate their mounting concerns about the lack of progress on judicial nominees. Judging from reaction today, Frist failed miserably.

Frist’s reassuring comments yesterday couldn’t have come at a better time. Last month he had promised a confirmation vote by Memorial Day on D.C. Circuit Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and to Frist’s credit, he delivered today.

But after Kavanaugh, who is next?

That’s the question conservatives want Frist to answer. But during yesterday’s call, they got no satisfaction. Frist ducked a question about stalled nominees Terence Boyle and William Haynes, saying he was still waiting for advice from Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) on how to proceed.

When did the Senate GOP leader start taking his cues from one of the party’s most liberal members? And even if that is the case, why would he use that as his excuse during a call with conservative activists?

Frist will assert that he needs Specter on his side if he’s to make any progress on confirming judicial nominees, but that’s baloney. Frist sets the agenda, and if confirming nominees is a priority for him, it will be for the rest of the caucus.

So far in 2006, Frist hasn’t made it a priority. Aside from Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans have shied away from the issue that helped them build their majority in 2002 and 2004.

Frist can claim credit for the successful confirmations of Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Sam Alito, but that’s no reason to ignore the other lower-court nominees who are either waiting for hearings before the Judiciary Committee or in limbo waiting for a floor vote.

Reaction to today’s vote on Kavanaugh illustrated the deep frustration with Frist. Four major players in the conservative movement—the Family Research Council, Committee for Justice, Third Branch Conference and Concerned Women for America—all sounded a pessimistic tone following the confirmation vote.

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

“While I commend Majority Leader Frist for scheduling the vote on Mr. Kavanaugh, it really is a shame that due to obstructionism almost three years passed before the nominee received that fair vote. This should embolden the Senate in the face of unwarranted opposition to other nominees.

“The question remains: will Terrance Boyle, William Myers, William Haynes, and other nominees receive the decency and fairness finally afforded Brett Kavanaugh today? Or, will they continue to wait indefinitely for that final confirmation vote? Perhaps they too will withdraw their names from consideration once the appearance of a final confirmation vote seems hopeless.”

Curt Levey, Committee for Justice

“We remind the Senate’s Republican leadership that three of the President’s other appellate nominees—Terrence Boyle, William Myers, and William Haynes—have been waiting as long or longer than Kavanaugh. We call on the leadership to make votes on nominees stuck in committee or on the floor a top priority, regardless of whether it is Democrats or individual Republican senators who are obstructing the nominations.”

“Judicial nominees have put their names and reputations on the line and should be given the courtesy of up or down votes on the Senate floor, especially when the President’s party controls the Senate. Leaving them hanging and subject to innuendo and smear from political attacks is unfair and contrary to the constitutional duty of Advice & Consent.”

Manuel Miranda, Third Branch Conference

“One solid circuit court confirmation in six months is not an accomplishment. The Senate must give an honest, up or down vote to Judge Terrence Boyle, William Myers and Jim Haynes just as Leader Frist has promised for all.”

“Today George Bush’s confirmation rate (70%) for circuit judges is the lowest of any president. The circuit courts stands at 9.5% vacancy rate. And yet the Senate walks slowly. Leader Frist must end the silent filibusters in June and July, and if he is obstructed, then the vote that matters must be the one in November when the people decide.”

Jan LaRue, Concerned Women for America

“Time is running out for the Senate to move remaining nominees. Judge Terry Boyle, Jim Haynes and William Myers are just a few who are being denied a hearing or a vote. Judge Boyle has been waiting more than five years for a vote. Under the Senate’s immigration bill, millions of illegals will become citizens in shorter time.”