GOP blocking judge

Robert Novak
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Posted: Jul 26, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Another of President Bush's judicial selections faces trouble in the Senate, but the problem this time comes from moderate Republicans rather than Democrats. Supporters of lawyer J. Leon Holmes believe he would be readily confirmed as a district judge in Arkansas were it not for opponents in his own party.

Holmes, a devout Catholic, has generated moderate Republican opposition because of an article he co-authored with his wife that expresses concern over "gender neutral language." Senate Democrats have promised not to filibuster Holmes and will even give him some votes. "All that is holding him up is that he is an active, thoughtful Catholic," Sean Rushton of the conservative Committee for Justice told this column.

A footnote: The White House expects there soon will be four Senate filibusters of nominations to appellate courts. In addition to Miguel Estrada (District of Columbia) and Priscilla Owen (Texas), Democrats plan talkathons against Carolyn Kuhl (California) and William Pryor (Alabama).

A LADY NEWT?

When Rep. Bill Thomas made his tearful apology to the House Wednesday, only three Democrats did not join the standing applause: Fortney H. (Pete) Stark of California, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, and -- surprisingly

-- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

While Stark and Doggett are among the most partisan members of Congress, Pelosi can seem sweetly reasonable. However, she is viewed by House insiders as attempting an imitation of Newt Gingrich, who as Republican whip a decade ago made life miserable for majority Democrats.

Pelosi this past week was trying to tie up the House because it would not pass the Democratic-sponsored extension of the child tax credit.

BUSH-CHENEY IN CALIFORNIA

As the drive to recall California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis hits high gear, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will return to the Golden State for August campaign trips.

President Bush will make a two-day visit to California, speaking in San Diego Aug. 14 and in Orange County Aug. 15. Vice President Cheney will go to Sacramento Aug. 6 and return to the state for a Los Angeles appearance Aug. 12.

The Bush administration has not been enthusiastic about the Davis recall, and its agents in California discouraged the effort. With the issue to be decided Oct. 7, however, Bush and Cheney probably will have to support the recall.

SILVERSTEIN'S LOBBYIST

New York developer Larry Silverstein, who won long-term leases to commercial office space at the World Trade Center, has hired one of Washington's powerful political lobbying firms: Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

Jack Quinn was White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. Ed Gillespie, just elected Republican national chairman, has left the firm temporarily. Gillespie has been replaced by veteran GOP policy expert David Hoppe, who was Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's chief of staff. Just why Silverstein needs such high-powered representation in Washington mystifies political insiders.

Jeffrey Connaughton, a former Clinton White House aide who is a principal at Quinn Gillespie, performed his first service for Silverstein Properties last Monday. He circulated on Capitol Hill a statement asserting that Silverstein, contrary to rumors, plans to use insurance proceeds to rebuild the World Trade Center.

PORK TERM LIMITS

Rep. Trent Franks, a freshman Republican congressman from Arizona, is defying the House establishment by proposing a limit of three two-year terms to serve on the House appropriations committee.

That reflects aggravation among younger Republican members that "The Cardinals" who control appropriations are authorizing pork barrel spending that swells the budget deficit. In a letter he is circulating among House members, Franks contends that term limits "will allow my colleagues the opportunity to direct tax dollars, and allow fresh ideas into the appropriations process."

First-term congressmen generally avoid antagonizing appropriators for fear it will dry up pork for their own districts. Franks, a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives, was the owner of a small oil and gas exploration company.