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Podcasts and Transcripts: The Majority Leader on Judges

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The transcript of my interview with Majority Leader Frist is here.

The podcast is here.  (And to those who have been bugging me about podcasts all these years, we have the gates open and the podcasts are rolling out.)

Here’s the Majority Leader on various confirmation-related questions:

HH: The Hamden decision, the NSA controversy, they all point us back to the courts. And so I’d like to just get some status from you, Majority Leader Frist. Peter Keisler, tremendous nominee for the DC Circuit, will he have an up or down vote before November?

BF: I’m going to work in that regard, and Hugh, we had Holmes was just earlier today, an outstanding nominee, was confirmed today. But again, instead of having a vote, we had to spend two hours yesterday, and two hours today, so some foot-dragging, but an outstanding nominee. We got four judges through last week. The closer we get to elections, the more the Demorats will put up obstruction. But we’re going to continue to fight to get up or down votes on common sense, balanced judicial nominees who understand that their job is not to legislate from the bench, but to interpret the law. And we’re going to continue fighting for them, and again, we got five judges through in the last four days, and I’m proud of that, and we’re going to keep working.

HH: Congratulations. Keisler, though, is DC Circuit. That’s where all these terror cases end up, where the regulatory weight of the United States, as you obviously know.

BF: Right.

HH: Does he go to the front of the line, in your opinion?

BF: I just don’t know at this juncture, but you’re exactly right. If you look at the DC Circuit, and again, a lot of people don’t fully understand that, it, after the Supreme Court, is the next court in terms of heirarchy, in terms of responsibility, interpretation, and in terms of prioritization. I just can’t say at this juncture.

HH: You’re under tremendous pressure concerning Judge Boyle, and Department of Defense general counsel, William Jim Haynes. Any status report on either of those, when they’ll get their votes, or when they’ll…Haynes in the case, get a committee vote?

BF: No, I really can’t, Hugh. They’re both individuals that we’re working on every day. And there have been certain accusations that have been made that our staff and we are working on, and we’ll have to prioritize it accordingly. But in terms of specific dates, I just can’t comment yet.

HH: Are you hearing that pressure, though? Does that word get through to you?

BF: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

HH: People are upset about Boyle and Haynes?

BF: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the judges, even though in the big picture, our confirmation rate is superb for President Bush, you have seen us have to battle through these judges, and that’s where I stood on principle on the nuclear option, and with that, we seem to have broken the back of the filibuster, and we’ve had good success. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of slowing up these nominations, and of course, people are seeing that. It’s a constant struggle.

HH: Keisler was late arriving, but Boyle and Haynes have been there…how do you explain, or how would you want to explain to this audience, why they’ve been…because it’s Republicans, isn’t it, that’s holding up Boyle and Haynes?

BF: It’s both. It’s both. And there are…usually, there are objections, and again, I don’t want to get into individuals, because I’m really having to vote and negotiate and push for these every day. But usually, there is some information, or some piece of information that has come forward, some of which is public, some of which is not public, that a group of Senators latch onto, and use, or try and use effectively in either blocking or asking for more information, and you’ve seen us have to go back for second hearings and third hearings, but it is a challenge.

HH: Is it fair to say that Senator Graham and Senator McCain in the case of Haynes?

BF: Yeah, Hugh, really, I just don’t want to get into naming individual Senators right now. If I were further along, and had gotten these people through, I’d be happy to do that.

As I see it, getting Keisler through by the end of September will take all the heat off the Majority Leader, but leave it on Senators Graham and McCain, especially with regard to nominee Haynes.  The Gang of 14 was supposed to assure all nominees not called out by the gang of up-or-down votes. 

Getting the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit filled would close Senator Frist’s tenure with a huge win on judges. (The Majority Leader himself acknowledges inthe interview how crucial this particualr court is.)  I can’t see him letting that opportunity pass, or exposing himself to the criticism that would follow if Keisler ended up not winning through to the bench after the ’06 elections.


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