WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans will do "whatever is necessary" to ensure that majority Democrats hold confirmation hearings for President Bush's judicial nominees, a leading GOP lawmaker said Sunday.
The comments from Sen. Don Nickles, the assistant minority leader, were the latest in the partisan bickering following the party-line defeat last week of a White House nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Nickles, R-Okla., said Democrats have been holding up the nomination process and 20 Bush nominees have not had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some nominees have been waiting almost a year, he said.
"We'll do whatever is necessary to get their attention to make sure that good nominees have a chance to have a hearing," Nickles said on Fox News Sunday.
"We have to get some kind of agreement that we're going to take up these judges, or else Republicans are going to do something."
Nickles did not elaborate. His spokeswoman said the options include using Senate procedures to hold up Democrat nominees and legislation.
The Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 Thursday to against elevating U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi to the appeals courts.
Pickering was the first of Bush's judicial nominees to lose in the committee. After the defeat, Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, a longtime Pickering friend, said he would block one of Majority Leader Tom Daschle's aides from getting on the Federal Communications Commission.
Lott also blocked a Judiciary Committee request for $1.5 million to investigate the intelligence community's performance during the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lott has insisted his plan to block Bush's FCC nomination of 39-year-old Jonathan S. Adelstein, a legislative assistant for Daschle since 1995, has nothing to do with the Pickering vote.
"Adelstein had nothing to do with the Pickering nomination, so to lash out at him is an unfortunate set of circumstances that I hope that will cause Senator Lott to reconsider," Daschle said on CBS' Face the Nation.
Daschle, D-S.D., said Democrats are "going to do the best we can to deal with all of the judges that have been nominated."
When Democrats took over the Senate in June, they warned they would be tough on Bush's judicial nominees they thought too conservative. Democrats said Republicans had thwarted or stalled many of former Democratic President Clinton's nominees with similar tactics when they controlled the Senate.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. has suggested he would not allow potentially controversial Bush choices to come before the committee until other nominees went through first.