Texas can only send Democrat Nominees - White House States
WASHINGTON – The fight over control of federal nominations in Texas came to head today, with the White House proclaiming that Democratic lawmakers – not the state’s Republican senators – get to send names to the president for consideration.
“No federal judge, U.S. Attorney or U.S. Marshal will be nominated by the president… unless that person has the confirmed support of the Texas Democratic delegation,” the White House said in a statement provided to The Dallas Morning News.
The decision is sure to rile Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who have demanded an ongoing, central role in selecting nominees.
Just last week, the senators invited applications for prosecutor jobs in Dallas and Houston – insisting not only that their screening system survived into the Obama administration, but that White House counsel Greg Craig had assured them the process would be respected.
On the other side, the dozen Texas Democrats in the U.S. House have waged a persistent campaign to wrest control of nominations from the senators, meeting separately several times with Craig.
After The News reported on the senators’ call for applications, the House members demanded another meeting. The president’s chief counsel spent 75 minutes Monday getting an earful from Obama allies in the office of delegation chairman Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.
Craig promised an explicit, public assurance that the president will only consider names submitted by Democrats, effectively shutting out the GOP senators, Texas lawmakers said.
“I’m certainly pleased that they are fully fulfilling the commitment that they made some time ago that the one process for reviewing and submitting candidates to get full consideration by the White House is the one we establish through the Texas Democratic delegation,” Doggett said.
Senators have the power to easily block home-state nominees in committee. The House has no constitutional role in selecting judges, but having a fellow Democrat as president provides political leverage.
The outcome of the Texas power struggle could reverberate elsewhere. The issue hasn’t erupted in any other state since Obama took office, but there are 13 others without a Democratic senator.
A White House official made clear that this arrangement will not necessarily serve as a model.
“The Texas Democratic members of the House of Representatives have, at the request of the White House, engaged in a process that involves interviewing potential candidates for federal judge, US Attorney and US Marshal,” the White House statement said. “The White House supports the Texas Democratic delegation’s established process for reviewing and submitting candidates. Individuals seeking these positions should utilize this process to ensure full consideration by the White House.”
The senators’ role will clearly be secondary, though it appears that strong objections would be taken into account.
“The Texas U.S. Senators will be accorded a full opportunity to share their views about each candidate whom the President proposes to nominate,” the statement said.
Democrats have told applicants to submit resumes to Doggett or any other Democrat in the House delegation.
Texas’ senators have insisted from the outset of the Obama administration that they would continue to screen candidates through their Federal Judiciary Evaluation Committee, created during the Clinton administration. The senators pick the members, nearly all are Republicans, and most of the membership has been kept secret.
The senators attempted to mollify Texas Democrats by promising to add some Democrats and, last week, to identify members.
The Democrats said that fell far short.
“Elections have consequences,” Doggett said. “…Of course we’ll talk with the senators and ask them to share their views. We’ve never suggested otherwise.”
The White House statement served as a fairly direct rejection of Cornyn’s assertion last week that “we have an understanding with the Obama administration.”
As Republicans saw it, they would continue screening candidates and sending finalists to the White House, and if Democrats had a candidate, they would have to submit to that screening process, too.
Presidential nominees require Senate approval, and all 41 GOP senators have warned Obama they would resort to filibusters if he tries to ramrod judicial nominees.
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