WASHINGTON -- President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees may have to wait until 2002 before they get a confirmation hearing, much less a vote, from the Democrat-controlled Senate.
While Democrats say they plan to get as many as 30 of Bush's judges confirmed before the end of the year -- 17 of his 64 nominees have been approved so far -- none of them will likely be the four nominees who could cause long, drawn out debates among senators.
That means Bush Appeals Court nominees Miguel Estrada, Jeff Sutton, Terrance Boyle and Michael McConnell will likely have to wait until next year before finding out whether the Democrats in control of their destinies will even allow a vote on their nominations.
"I'm trying to get the ones who are non-controversial" first, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "We're trying to get through as many as we can."
Republicans don't believe him. GOP senators have dropped their blockade of spending bills as a tactic for pressuring Democrats to allow more judges through. But Republicans still accuse those on the other side of the aisle of playing political games with Bush's nominations.
"I don't think we're doing the job, and I think the American people are going to suffer because of it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and its former chairman.
32 await hearing
Thirty-two of Bush's nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings but no committee votes have been held on 10 other nominees and one other has received committee clearance but has yet to be voted on by the full Senate.
Sheldon Goldman, a University of Massachusetts professor and author of the book, "Picking Federal Judges: Lower Court Selection From Roosevelt Through Reagan," said Leahy has done well in getting 19 judges confirmed since June. Goldman, however, added that all judicial nominees, even the controversial ones, deserve a quick hearing.