You can set your watch by it. Every time power shifts in Washington,
Republicans and Democrats pat each other's backs after the dust settles
with promises to be more bipartisan in conducting the public's business.
And within a month they're back to partisan fighting.
After Sen. Jim Jeffords became an independent and handed control of the
Senate to the Democrats, the chamber's new majority leader Tom Daschle
promised to treat Republicans and the White House far better than he says
they treated him. GOP leader Trent Lott, in turn, dropped a threat to block
from taking control of the Senate. It was all handshakes and grins.
But keep an eye on your watch. The two sides will cooperate in passing
the education bill, because they'd already reached their compromises on the
measure before Democrats took control of the Senate. Daschle next plans to
bring up the Democratic patient's bill of rights measure, which Bush
opposes, but the public partisan rancor there will probably stay in check
because both sides realize they have to look like they're producing. But
bipartisanship will quickly run out on the issue Democrats and Republicans
consider one of the most critical the next four years: judicial nominees.
After eight years of Clinton appointments, George W. Bush wants to
quickly pack the federal courts with as many conservative jurists as he
can. Daschle has promised not to block or stall confirmations as
Republicans did with many of Clinton's judicial nominees. Sen. Patrick
Leahy, the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee, insists there won't be
payback for the last eight years when Republicans left many Clinton picks
languishing in committee. But Leahy is quick to add, "we're not going to
have a judiciary made up of ideologues on the right." Translated: W can
probably expect just as rough treatment for his more conservative nominees
as Clinton did with his liberal choices.
When he chaired the panel, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch tried to speed
up hearings for Bush judicial nominees so Democrats wouldn't have time to
collect damaging information on them and mount a counter-offensive. Leahy,
who now controls the schedule, will slow it down so Democratic staffers can
stockpile more ammunition on conservative nominees before their hearings.
Some of Bush's
picks who may be targeted:
Democrats have been salivating over U.S. District Court Judge
Terrence W. Boyle, 55, a protégé of North Carolina conservative Sen. Jesse
Helms, whom Bush has tapped for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Boyle, however, may be saved by North Carolina's other senator, Democrat
John Edwards. Edwards opposes Boyle, but he's holding off blocking the
nomination if he can get the White House to nominate another North
Carolinian to the 4th Circuit. Edwards' favorite is state Appeals Court
Judge James A. Wynn, an African-American whom Helms has blocked in the
Disability activists have been phoning Democrats on Judiciary
demanding that they block Columbus, Ohio, attorney Jeffrey Sutton from
taking a seat on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Sutton,
who's a former Ohio solicitor, successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme
Court last year that the Constitution limits suits against state
governments for discrimination because
of a disability. Liberals also accuse him of being hostile to civil rights.
Conservative Miguel Estrada has blue-chip credentials: a Harvard Law
School degree, a Supreme Court clerkship, a stint as an assistant U.S.
attorney, and now a partner in a high-powered Washington law firm. Born in
Honduras, he'd also be the first Hispanic judge to reach the Appeals Court
in the District of Columbia. But one of Estrada's law partners is
considered a Darth Vader by the Democratic Party: Theodore B. Olson, Bush's
recently confirmed solicitor general who successfully argued W's election
case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The D.C. Appeals Court has also been a
stepping stone to the Supreme Court for other conservative jurists, such as
Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. If the 39- year-old Estrada made that
leap several years later, Democrats realize he'd be on the High Court for a