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Judicial wrecking ball

Patrick Leahy-led congressional committee needs to uphold the nomination process

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

The new make-up of the United States Senate-51 Democrats and 49 Republicans-means that Vermont's Patrick Leahy once again wields the gavel when the Judiciary Committee meets.

Leahy held that gavel from the date of Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP in the late spring of 2001 through January 2003, and in that time numerous nominations by President Bush to the federal courts were blocked in committee. Expect more in the way of obstruction when the new Senate convenes in January.

In his January State of the Union address, the president must make it clear that the judiciary of the United States deserves better from the Senate. President Bush should note that some Republicans also have played politics with nominees, many of whom have been pilloried and slandered.

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The Senate is close to wrecking the nomination process, especially with regard to the highest court. If a vacancy arises on the Supreme Court in 2007 or in the first half of 2008, the president's nominee will deserve a hearing and a vote by the full Senate in the same year. If that is denied, the seat should remain vacant for as long as it takes to remedy the underlying problem of a left unwilling to abide by the Constitution's bestowal of the "advice and consent" power on the entire body.

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