Leahy says GOP is politicizing judiciary

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate this week is a blatant attempt to politicize the federal judiciary. Leahy says this effort needs to be strongly opposed.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Republicans in the Senate plan to filibuster for 30 hours to protest what they say is the unfair treatment by the Democrats of some of President Bush’s judicial nominees. They’re particularly upset that the Democrats have blocked action on four of the president’s appointments to the federal Court of Appeals.

Leahy, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary committee, says the Senate has given its approval to most of the president’s nominees and has withheld support for only a few candidates – candidates that Leahy says are ultra-conservative ideologues.

(Leahy) “We have confirmed almost 170 of president Bush’s nominees, 95% of the them would be what people would consider conservative Republicans. But when they go way beyond that to people who are so far outside the ideological mainstream – people who would not give us the guarantee we’re supposed to have of the independence, the nonpartisanship of the federal courts – of course we have to do whatever we can to stop them.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says his biggest concern is that the Republicans are trying to undermine the independent nature of the federal judiciary:

(Leahy) “They want to politicize the federal courts. The federal courts have always been independent. What they want is to change that. They want to say the federal courts will fit a narrow ideological band and unless you fit in that narrow ideological band the court doesn’t belong to you. The founders of this country never believed that, nobody did.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says the Republican leadership should call off the filibuster and address the real issues facing the country:

(Leahy) “Because they don’t want to talk about the three to four million Americans who have lost jobs in the last three years. They don’t want to talk about putting people back to work. They don’t want to talk about a prescription drug benefit, or 43 million Americans without health insurance, or increasing the minimum wage – none of these things they want to talk about. Instead they’re doing this.”

(Kinzel) The GOP filibuster is scheduled to end Friday morning.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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