WASHINGTON – The Bush administration lost a last-minute bid Thursday to get the Supreme Court (search) to intervene and protect a federal panel's military base closing and realignment recommendations.
What was to be a routine paperwork delivery to President Bush was threatened by a cross-country legal fight.
Judges in Connecticut and Tennessee blocked the panel from recommending changes at local Air National Guard (search) bases.
Then Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (search) rejected the Bush administration's request for intervention, although another appeal could be filed later and handled by the full court.
In her denial of the Connecticut case, Ginsburg wrote, "The 2nd Circuit is proceeding expeditiously to hear and decide this matter. This court should not short-circuit the normal review process absent a showing of irreparable harm..."
Solicitor General Paul Clement, the administration's Supreme Court attorney, said in a court filing that disorder was undermining the work of the president and a commission that has spent five months on a plan to restructure domestic military bases to save billions of dollars.
"This is not a close case," Clement wrote.
By law, the commission had until Thursday to send its final report to the president, who had pledged to pass it on to Congress without changes. Congress would then have 45 days to block it, although lawmakers have never rejected reports in previous base-closing rounds.
The Bush administration appeal was one of multiple emergency filings Thursday at the high court involving base closure. Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee, said that a federal appeals court in New York was dealing with the same case and "this court should not short-circuit the normal review process absent a showing of irreparable harm stronger than that presented here." Ginsburg handles appeals from the New York-based court.
New Jersey and Missouri officials also asked the Supreme Court to stop the commission from sending the report, as is, to the president. Facilities in those states are among hundreds targeted by the base-closing panel for closure or consolidation in the first round of base closings in a decade.
In court papers, lawyers representing Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., and other New Jersey officials said they wanted a reprieve to appeal the decision to close Fort Monmouth (search).
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon asked the high court to protect an Air National Guard unit in St. Louis.
Clement had argued for the government that a Connecticut judge was out of line Wednesday in barring the commission from recommending changes at an Air National Guard base in that state. The government's appeal is pending at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York (search).
The base closure panel largely endorsed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's vision but chose to keep open several major bases against Pentagon wishes and crafted its own restructuring of Air National Guard forces.
In other base closing lawsuits, a Massachusetts judge on Thursday rejected the state's efforts to protect the Otis Air National Guard Base (search). Like several other states, Massachusetts argued that changes to their National Guard units or bases must be approved by governors.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich filed a court appeal to block a plan to move fighter jets out of his state. Washington state also has filed a lawsuit.
The Bush administration contends the panel's recommendations are not reviewable by courts.
But in Connecticut, U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello said the governor would suffer significant hardship if the state's lawsuit over the Bradley Air National Guard Base wasn't considered immediately. In Tennessee, U.S. District Judge Robert Echols temporarily barred the commission from recommending relocation of the Nashville-based 118th Airlift Wing.