Robert Novak

After the Senate Wednesday night voted 81 to 15 to pass the money bill dictated by Reid without permitting even an attempted Republican amendment, Reid scheduled a Thursday vote on Idaho State Judge N. Randy Smith's confirmation for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was first nominated by President Bush on Dec. 16, 2005.

The 94 to 0 vote for Smith's confirmation can be attributed to the fact he was recently named for a Idaho seat on the 9th Circuit after his earlier nomination for a California seat was blocked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. However, Senate sources say Smith would not have been confirmed any time soon if Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had prevented cloture from being imposed on the appropriations bill.


Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota was the stand-in Wednesday at a Washington fund-raising luncheon for the hospitalized Sen. Tim Johnson, who is up for re-election in South Dakota next year.

The $1,000-a-plate luncheon was held at 101 Constitution Ave., a private office building at the foot of Capitol Hill, to contribute to "Tim Johnson for South Dakota." Democratic fund-raiser Haroon Khan told this column he plans 13 similar fund-raisers for the absent Johnson between now and March. The senator will not attend any of these events.

Johnson has not left the George Washington University Hospital in Washington since suffering a brain hemorrhage Dec. 13. No target date has been announced for his return to the Senate, and no indication has been given of whether he will run for a third Senate term in 2008.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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