Bush to Dems: Stop Foot-Dragging on Judges

The administration says President Bush is nominating federal judges at a faster rate than his three most recent predecessors, but the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee is dragging its feet on holding confirmation hearings for the nominees.

As President Bush nominated 18 additional federal judges on Thursday, administration officials said the Judiciary Committee has held hearings on only four nominees — including just one for the first batch of 11 judges first nominated on May 9.

To date, the White House has nominated 44 judges — 22 for circuit court of appeals spots, and 22 for district court judgeships.

The officials said that in President Clinton's first term, he only named 13 judicial nominees by the August congressional recess. Former President Bush nominated eight by that point, and President Reagan nominated 14.

Officials add that with one exception during Clinton's first term, all of the nominees at this point in the previous administrations were confirmed by the end of the president's first year in office. "The president expects the Senate to act the same with these nominees," an administration official said.

Thursday's nominees include David Bunning to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Bunning is the 35-year-old son of Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., and has served as a federal prosecutor in Kentucky for 10 years. That's two years less than the experience usually called for by the American Bar Association, but an administration official said of the younger Bunning, "we have every confidence in Mr. Bunning that he'll be an outstanding judge."

On Wednesday, Bush nominated the 28-year-old son of Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., to be U.S. Attorney in South Carolina.

As of today, there are 108 vacancies out of the 862 spots on federal courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a nominee for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday morning.

Administration officials say Bush hopes to have nominations for all judicial vacancies by the end of the year.