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Friday | January 24, 2003

Hatch changes his own rule

What is hypocrisy? Exhibit A:

When in control of the Senate's judicial committee, Sens. Kennedy and Biden followed the one-blue-slip rule. In effect, senators are allowed to give a thumbs up or down on judicial nominees from their own states. If both senators objected, the nomination was dead.

However, when the GOP took the Senate in 1994, Utah's Orin Hatch took over the judicial committee and the rules suddenly changed. Hatch allowed a single senator to block a judicial nominee from his or her state. Why? Clinton was in office. Jesse Helms used this new rule to block every Clinton nominee from North Carolina.

In 2000, Bush was selected president and, presto, Hatch changed his mind. The "Kennedy-Biden" rule suddenly made more sense. Democrats fought Hatch to a standstill until Jeffords defected and made the whole issue moot. The new Democratic chair of the committee, Patrick Leahy, kept Hatch's rule intact (allowing a single senator to block a nomination).

Now that the GOP is back in charge in the Senate, Hatch is making another effort to change his own rule.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee's top Democrat, said Hatch was changing his own precedent.

"During the Clinton administration, he would not allow a nomination to move forward unless he had both blue slips," Leahy said. "To do differently during the Bush administration would be inconsistent."

"Inconsistent". That's civil Senate-speak for "hypocrite". And in the Orwellian tradition of the GOP, Hatch is rewritting history:
"We're going to follow the Kennedy-Biden-Hatch policy, which basically says that blue slips will be given great weight but they're not dispositive. That's the way it should be," Hatch said.
Incidentally, I agree that this is how it should be. But Hatch changed the rules, and he should live be the consequences.

Here's a perfect compromise: the two-slip rule stays in effect for the next two years. What was fair for Clinton should be fair for Bush. After Bush's term ends, we can return to the "way it should be" -- regardless of which party captures the White House.

Posted January 24, 2003 01:22 PM | Comments (16)


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