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Bush Drops Plans to Resubmit Three Judicial Nominees, Calms Democrats

By Neil A. Lewis


In an apparent effort to lower the temperature in the fierce battle over federal judges — and in a concession to political reality — President Bush said Tuesday that he was dropping plans to nominate three of his choices for the federal appeals courts who have been vigorously opposed by Senate Democrats.

The White House announced that the three candidates, all conservatives, had themselves asked for their names to be withdrawn. But the announcement was widely taken to mean that the president had decided that renominating them would be a needlessly provocative act, one that would anger Democrats without sufficient political payoff from conservatives for sticking by the nominees.

Days after the November election that gave the Democrats control of Congress, Bush pledged to renominate the three. His words prompted denunciations from Democrats that he had not taken any lessons from the election and that he was not, as he had claimed, prepared to engage them in a bipartisan way.

Democrats were able to block the confirmations of the three — William J. Haynes II, William Myers III and Terrence Boyle — in the last Congress. With the Democrats now in control of the Senate, the three’s chances to be confirmed were reduced further.

After Tuesday’s announcement, some Democrats expressed appreciation for the decision.

“It’s the first whiff of conciliation we’ve had on the issue of judges,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a Judiciary Committee member who has been vocal in his complaints that Bush has sought confrontation on the issue of judges.

“The election demanded much more bipartisanship than they’ve been giving,” Schumer said. “But this might be the beginning of a path we can walk down together.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who formally assumes the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee this week, praised Bush for not resubmitting the three nominees. “This new Congress presents an opportunity for a fresh start on judicial nominations, one that emphasizes qualifications and bipartisan consensus over game-playing,” Leahy said.

In addition to the three, a fourth federal appeals court nominee who had been opposed by the Democrats, Michael J. Wallace of Mississippi, withdrew last month.

Democrats had vowed to block the confirmations of all four.

Haynes, who was nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Va., has been the Pentagon’s general counsel and was deeply involved in setting the administration’s interrogation and detention policies. Haynes wrote or supervised memorandums that secretly authorized harsh treatment for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Iraq.

Myers had been nominated for a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The circuit, based in San Francisco, covers nine states and is frequently at the center of disputes over environmental laws and regulations.