WASHINGTON – A freshman Democratic senator urged President Bush on Tuesday to withdraw all of his renominated judicial candidates, a blow to Republicans who had hoped to get the lawmaker's support to break possible filibusters.
Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar (search), who some Republicans had suggested might be willing to vote with them for certain nominees, wrote Bush asking him to withdraw all of the candidates Democrats blocked in the Senate during the president's first term.
"The decision to renominate these individuals will undoubtedly create the animosity and divisiveness ... that is not helpful to our nation and will sidetrack our collective efforts to work on other crucial matters," Salazar wrote.
The development coincided with the Senate Judiciary Committee's first hearing for one of those blocked nominees, William Myers (search), once the top lawyer at the Interior Department.
The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, put Myers first because the Pennsylvania Republican hoped that Salazar and some Democrats would support his nomination.
The Senate has 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning senator. Specter needs 60 votes to ensure Democrats cannot block Myers. "I count 58 votes," Specter said Tuesday before Salazar's announcement.
But Myers' nomination is one that Salazar is asking the president to abandon. A spokesman for Salazar said the senator had not decided how he will vote on Myers or any other nominee.
But withdrawing Myers and the other blocked nominees "would be a recognition that the Congress and the president must work on those matters where we can find common purpose," said Salazar.
If Republicans have more than 50 votes for Myers, he should be confirmed, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "The country deserves a system that allows us to give advice and consent, because that's our obligation. And we should be able to vote for him on the floor up or down," he said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid did not see much hope for Myers and other renominated candidates. "We're going to treat them just the same as we have in the past," said Reid, D-Nev.
At the hearing, Myers tried to convince Democrats that he would be a fair and impartial judge if confirmed for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search), which oversees cases from nine states in the West.
Liberal and environmental groups complain about what they say is his advocacy for mining and cattle interests.
"As a lawyer, I was an advocate of my clients," Myers said. "If I was to be confirmed, I would be an advocate for the law."
Few Democrats seemed convinced.
"I believe Mr. Myers to be the most anti-environment nominee sent to the Senate in my time here," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Added Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.: "Your record screams 'passionate activist.' It doesn't so much as whisper 'impartial judge.'"
Terrence W. Boyle (search), a former aide to retired Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., gets a hearing Thursday for his nomination to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based on Richmond, Va. On Tuesday, the committee will consider the nomination of Thomas Griffith (search), former counsel to the Senate during the impeachment of President Clinton, for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.