Harry Reid (D-NV), in “private talks with Majority Leader Bill Frist,” has indicated “a willingness to allow confirmation of at least two of President Bush’s seven controversial appeals court nominees, but only as part of a broader compromise requiring Republicans to abandon threats to ban judicial filibusters, officials said Monday.” More below:
From “Frist, Reid Work on Judge-Approval Deal,” by Associated Press writers David Espo and Jesse J. Holland:
At the same time [Reid] offers to clear two nominees to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for approval, officials said Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., wants a third appointee to be replaced by an alternative who is preferred by Michigan’s two Democratic senators.
The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the conversations between the two leaders.
Reid issued a statement during the day saying he has had numerous conversations with senators in both parties in hopes of avoiding a showdown. “As part of any resolution, the nuclear option must be off the table,” the statement concluded, referring to the GOP threat of banning judicial filibusters.
Frist and Reid have been discussing the overall issue privately for weeks, each man publicly stressing a willingness to seek a compromise while maneuvering for political advantage in the event of a showdown.
Apart from the seven controversial appeals court nominees, the issue is also seen as a proxy of sorts over future vacancies on an aging Supreme Court. Democrats fear Bush could have a second-term opportunity to shift the court rightward, possibly even ushering in a new era of hostility to abortion rights.
Officials said as part of an overall deal, Reid has indicated he is willing to allow the confirmation of Richard Griffin and David McKeague, both of whom Bush has twice nominated for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. At the same time, the Democratic leader wants the nomination of Henry Saad scuttled. Democrats succeeded in blocking all three men from coming to a vote in 2004 in a struggle that turned on issues of senatorial prerogatives as well as ideology.
Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., has led the opposition to all three men. In remarks on the Senate floor in 2004, he noted that Republicans had refused even to hold hearings on two nominees that former President Bill Clinton made to the 6th Circuit.
Spokesmen for Frist and Reid declined to comment on their private discussions, and no further details were available.
Other senators have referred vaguely in recent days to discussions surrounding Bush’s 6th circuit nominations. …