Republicans, the Senate’s new minority, formally asked Democrats to guarantee consideration by the full Senate of President George W. Bush’s appointees to the Supreme Court or appeals courts, officials involved in discussions said.
The request, conveyed Monday, also said all other judicial nominations should receive timely reviews, the officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Republicans suggested legislation to streamline Senate consideration of all presidential nominations, to the judiciary or to executive branch positions.
The proposals were contained in a draft memorandum of understanding that Republican negotiators forwarded during the day to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
“I would expect it to be resolved in the next several days,” one of the Republicans, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania told reporters. He would not discuss details of the Republican proposal.
Republicans, who say they fear extended delays by Democrats of Bush’s judicial nominations, are seeking guarantees as part of discussions about committee assignments and other housekeeping details in the Senate, under Democratic control for the first time in more than six years. Details of this sort customarily are settled at the beginning of a two-year Congress, but Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont precipitated an unprecedented switch in Senate power last week when he bolted the Republican Party and became an independent. His move ended the 50-50 Republican-Democratic breakdown in the Senate and gave Democrats control.
Democrats complained bitterly in the past about protracted delays for some of President Bill Clinton’s judicial nominations. They have pledged verbally a standard of fairness for Bush’s appointees.
But Republicans want more: acquiescence by Daschle and the Democrats in a formal, written understanding.
In addition to discussion of judgeships, the two sides are expected to agree that Democrats will gain a one-seat majority on each Senate committee, and the size of committees will be expanded to accommodate the one-seat Democratic edge.
In addition, several Democrats say once they have agreed with Republicans about the size and makeup of committees, they will appoint Jeffords as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic whip, is currently chairman, but several Democratic officials have said he told Jeffords he was willing to step aside.