McConnell, Specter Push to Force Vote on Southwick Nomination

Posted August 1, 2007 at 11:04am

In the GOP’s latest attempt to build pressure for a confirmation vote on stalled judicial nominee Leslie Southwick, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) tried today to force Senators to weigh in on a nonbinding measure supporting his installation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

McConnell took to the floor to offer the symbolic Sense of the Senate resolution from himself and Specter to try to put lawmakers on record as for or against Southwick’s appointment to a lifetime seat on the federal bench. The move is the most recent attempt by them and other Republicans to dislodge the appointment from the Judiciary Committee, where it has faced near uniform opposition from Democrats.

A floor vote on McConnell’s resolution could occur as early as Friday, and Southwick’s nomination is now on the Judiciary Committee agenda for Thursday.

After McConnell introduced his measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly said he would offer a resolution to table it this afternoon.

Republicans are hoping the Sense of the Senate resolution, while nonbinding, could help build enough pressure to unlock the nomination from the Judiciary panel and ultimately to the Senate floor for a full confirmation vote. But most Democrats, including Reid, are strong in their opposition to Southwick over the Mississippian’s civil and human rights rulings.

Still, GOP Senators believe several moderate Democrats are in their camp, including some of the original members of the “Gang of 14” that broke an earlier stalemate over President Bush’s stalled judicial nominations. Republicans believe Southwick has an exemplary record with more than a dozen years of appellate court experience and is more than qualified for the 5th Circuit.

McConnell and other leading GOP Senators, including Specter and Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, have been working all angles to push the nomination forward from threatening to slow Senate business and engaging in a widespread lobbying campaign of wavering Democrats.