A bit of backbone on Bush nominees

By Tim Grieve
Published March 2, 2005 5:37PM (EST)

In doing the math on President Bush's judicial nominees, Republicans have been counting on Ken Salazar, the new Democratic senator from Colorado. Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote in favor of the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales. And before Salazar was elected to the Senate, he signed on to a letter urging the confirmation of William Myers, Bush's controversial nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals. When Arlen Specter counts the votes for Myers -- a potential test case for the Republicans' threatened "nuclear option" -- he considers Salazar's support as in the bag.

Specter may have to start counting again. Maybe it's the heat he's taken from Democrats for backing Gonzales, or maybe it's the feeling that Bush -- staggering on Social Security reform -- isn't invincible after all, but Salazar finally seems to be standing up. In a letter to Bush yesterday, Salazar asked the president to withdraw Myers and the other second-time-around judicial nominees he has sent to the Senate.

"As I have personally discussed with you, I believe the future of our Nation requires a bipartisan approach to resolve the major challenges facing us," Salazar told Bush. "In that spirit, I voted with many other Republican and Democratic senators to confirm every member of your cabinet for your second term. In that context, I am concerned with your decision to re-nominate judicial nominees previously nominated and not confirmed by the Senate in the 108th Congress. The decision reflects a sentiment contrary to the cooperative working relationship we need to develop to confront the many challenges we face."

Bush hasn't responded to Salazar's letter yet, and the senator probably shouldn't waste time waiting around his mailbox. Meanwhile, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer -- another Democrat Specter hoped would come around on Myers -- made it clear at Myers' hearing yesterday that he's not likely to come to the Republicans' aid. "Your record screams 'passionate activist,'" Schumer told Myers. "It doesn't so much as whisper 'impartial judge.'"

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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