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Thurmond Assails 'Egregious' Delay of Judicial Vote

Politics: The GOP senator is outraged over the postponement of a decision on a former aide. A key Democrat says the move was made because nomination was too contentious for quick action.

October 10, 2002|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — In a resumption of bitter Senate warfare over judicial nominations, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina took the chamber floor Wednesday for a rare speech expressing outrage at Democrats for delaying a confirmation vote for a former aide tapped by President Bush for a federal appeals court judgeship.

The White House joined in the criticism, inviting Judiciary Committee Republicans to meet with Bush to discuss strategy for getting a vote on the nomination of U.S. District Judge Dennis Shedd to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.

"I am hurt and disappointed by this egregious act of destructive politics," said Thurmond, 99, reading a brief but angry speech that could mark the Republican's final Senate address before he retires at the end of the current session.

He said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) had promised a vote on Shedd and then violated panel rules by removing the nomination from the agenda of a Tuesday committee meeting. "In my 48 years in the United States Senate," Thurmond said, "I have never been treated in such a manner."

Leahy said Tuesday that he was delaying action because the nomination was too contentious for a quick vote and could stall action on 17 other judicial nominations awaiting action.

"It has always been Senator Leahy's intention to schedule a vote" on Shedd, and he plans to do so this year, "if it's possible to do so," a Leahy aide said after Thurmond's speech.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the judiciary panel, called Leahy's action an affront to Thurmond, Bush and Shedd. Hatch said Republicans seek "just a stinking, solitary vote" on the nomination.

Some groups, including the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, have criticized Shedd, a former chief of staff for the Judiciary Committee, for his handling of cases dealing with civil rights. Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said letters are pouring in from South Carolina and elsewhere from African Americans and Latinos complaining about Shedd's rulings. Reid said he understood Thurmond's disappointment but noted that the Senate has already confirmed the senator's son as U.S. attorney for South Carolina and approved another former Thurmond aide for a judgeship.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Wednesday, "Nominees deserve to be treated with dignity. Senators deserve to have their commitments upheld. And the people deserve better, especially when there is a vacancy crisis in the United States courts."

At a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in Washington, Bush also accused the Senate of delaying action on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. "There are senators who are playing politics with this good man's nomination," Bush said.

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