Some key Republican senators want President Bush to to overcome Democratic filibusters by appointing conservative judges to the federal circuit courts when the Senate recesses.
While federal judges are named for life, a recess appointment would expire at the end of 2004 unless the Senate acted on the stalled nominations.
If Bush went along, his action could be viewed as an escalation in the partisan battle over judicial nominees that has already bogged down the Senate this week and endangers the prospect of a pre-Thanksgiving adjournment.
Conservative activists have for some time now juggled the idea of using recess appointments to circumvent adamant Democratic opposition. However, the idea appears to have gained momentum among lawmakers in the wake of numerous failed attempts to hold an up-or-down vote on several of the president’s most qualified nominees.
An alternative to appointing nominees such as Pickering, Bush could appoint ultra-conservative alternates to fill vacancies on the bench. Such substitutes might make the blocked nominees seem less controversial by comparison.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said, “We’d rather the [regular] process work and I’m sure that we’re going to give it every opportunity to work, but if it doesn’t, I would hope that the White House would think about recess appointments.”