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BUSH MAKES RECESS APPOINTMENT OF PICKERING TO 5th CIRCUIT.

President Bush announced late Jan. 16 he had appointed U.S. District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Pickering was sworn in later that evening in Jackson, MS.

By using his recess-appointment authority, Bush effectively bypassed the Senate, where Pickering's nomination has been blocked for over three years. But a recess appointment lasts only until the second session of the 108th Congress adjourns in January 2005 rather than the lifetime appointment federal judges receive if their nomination is approved by the Senate.

The president's action was criticized by Democrats as a step toward politicizing the federal courts but hailed by conservatives, including Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), who has threatened to block the omnibus spending bill Jan. 20 when it is scheduled to come up for a vote.

The omnibus spending bill was blocked by Democrats just before Congress adjourned last year and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who led the Democratic filibuster, is expected to have the unified support of his Democratic members Jan. 20 when the bill is scheduled for another cloture vote.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who had agreed earlier to vote with the Republicans, has decided he will vote with the Democrats.

If conservative senators also vote with the Democrats, the bill will be defeated, and that possibility became more likely last week as Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said he would oppose the bill because it would delay implementation of country-of-origin meat labeling laws and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) indicated he would do the same because of its thousands of so-called pork projects.

In addition, six conservative organizations came out against the $820 billion spending bill as the federal government posted a $16.2 billion deficit compared to a $4.7 billion surplus one year ago. .

Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of Coalitions for America, called the bill "a drunken-sailor budget," adding, "I complained about profligate spending during the Clinton years but never thought I'd have to do so with a Republican in the White House and Republicans controlling the Congress."

The budget bill also was criticized by the American Conservative Union, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union.

By appointing Pickering, Bush has made it easier for Vice President Dick Cheney to face the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this week.

Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, had warned "the grass-roots conservatives attending won't be shy about their displeasure."

Pickering's appointment may sway some conservatives, however - particularly Lott, a close personal friend of Pickering who has waged an unrelenting battle to get him appointed to the Fifth Circuit.

Pickering, now a federal district judge and the father of Rep. Charles Pickering Jr. (R-MS), was the first and only federal judicial nominee of President Bush to be defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Democrats had the majority.

Bush renominated Pickering last year after the Republicans took the Senate majority. His nomination passed the committee on a straight party-line vote but then was blocked in the Senate on a cloture vote of 54 to 43, six votes short of the 60 required to cut off debate.

By appointing the 66-year-old Pickering, Bush avoids putting the judge through another filibuster vote and puts him on the bench during an election year, in which Republicans hope to reelect Bush and increase their hold in Congress. If Republicans succeed, Bush could renominate Pickering next January and have a better chance of getting the nomination approved.

Bush's nominees still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate are: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, California Supreme Court Justice Janice R. Brown to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the Fifth Circuit and Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor to the 11th Circuit.
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Publication:Liability & Insurance Week
Date:Jan 20, 2004
Words:665
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