In bench warfare, Republicans sit this round out

Senate Republicans leave us hanging on the fate of four divisive Bush judicial nominees.

Published August 2, 2006 3:34PM (EDT)

Come Friday it's a month of recess time for the Senate, and that means ongoing speculation about the fates of four divisive judicial nominees will, in all likelihood, drag on through the dog days. President Bush's circuit court nominees William Haynes, William Myers, Michael Wallace and Terrence Boyle are still awaiting Senate votes, but that's not likely to keep lawmakers stuck at the office.

And the end of summer is looking more like the end of the line for this polarizing crop of judicial picks, at least for the foreseeable future. According to a report this week by Erin Billings of the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call, Senate Republicans aren't envisioning any floor votes for the nominees upon returning to business after Labor Day -- apparently picking a big partisan fight isn't good form heading into the heart of election season. All four nominees are bait for just that, and likely another filibuster showdown with Democrats: Haynes because of his ties to Bush's torture policy; Myers because of his ties to lobbying and corporate interests; Wallace because of his hard-line views on civil rights and a unanimous "Not Qualified" rating from the American Bar Association; and Boyle for a range of reasons, including his multiple violations of federal ethics law uncovered by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Salon in May.

As one "well-placed Republican Senate staffer" told Billings, the chance of any of the four seeing a vote before Election Day is "zilch. Zero."

Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Bill Frist, was a touch more optimistic, suggesting that movement on at least one of the nominees before then is "possible." It's up to her boss to schedule any of the nominees for a floor vote, once they've been cleared by the Judiciary Committee (as Myers and Boyle have been). "Sen. Frist is trying to make sure we dot all the i's and cross all the t's. We're trying to make sure people get all the information they need," Call said. As Salon readers know, there isn't exactly a shortage of details out there on Boyle, who Billings says "arguably is the most inflammatory appointment of the four because of the frequency of his previous rulings being reversed and allegations of conflict of interest." (If so, Haynes is a close second, as a key legal architect of the Bush-Cheney gloves-off war on terror.) Indeed, aside from the wealth of information available on Boyle's ethics transgressions, as blogger Andrew Hyman reminds us at, there's also been considerable debate over the number of times that Boyle, as a federal district court judge, has had his rulings corrected by the appellate court above him. As it happens, there's some more information available here, too: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Boyle was too lenient in sentencing a defendant who had perpetrated environmental damage in North Carolina. The 4th Circuit -- the court to which Boyle has been nominated by Bush -- ordered a new sentencing in the case.

If you're looking to catch up on the Boyle saga while waiting out the August heat, the Center for Investigative Reporting is maintaining a comprehensive "Timeline of Uncertainty" tracking Boyle's fate under the current Republican leadership in the Senate. Perhaps a bit unconventional for a beach read, but it has it all: Threats from right-wing activists! Allegations of a sinister left-wing conspiracy! Predictions of an all-out fight sure to leave "Republican blood on the floor"! Almost as many twists and turns as "The Da Vinci Code," some of them equally predictable!

One small problem, of course: The last chapter remains but blank pages. And given everything else weighing down Republicans heading into this election season, you'll probably have to wait for the ending on Boyle, or any of the other three, at least until 2007.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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