Clinton criticizes Senate for delays on judgeships; GOP unwilling to vote for Hispanic nominees, president tells group


CHICAGO -- President Clinton told a national Hispanic group yesterday that the Senate was a morass of delay, unwilling to vote for his Hispanic nominees for federal judgeships but afraid to vote against them.

"Now, I don't know about you, but if I took 3 1/2 years to make a decision, you wouldn't think I was a very good president," Clinton said. "How many times has somebody been on you because you took 3 1/2 hours?"

The president was warmly received in the morning at the annual conference of the Hispanic Leadership Institute, a nonpartisan organization that promotes voter registration and training of Hispanic officials.

He gave his administration credit for an improving economy and referred to information released last week showing that household incomes of Hispanics are rising faster than those of other Americans.

But he devoted much of his address to the judicial nominees.

He said it was not an isolated incident last week when the Senate rejected his nominee, an African-American, for the federal bench in Missouri after the seat had been empty for two years. The Senate voted 54-45 Tuesday against Justice Ronnie White of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Republicans say they have approved hundreds of Clinton nominees, including two on the day that White was rejected.

The nomination of White was rejected, Republicans said, because of his record opposing the death penalty.

The president criticized the rejection of White as "a disgraceful act of partisan politics."

Though many Republicans said they were not aware of White's race when they voted against him, the White House, in its reaction to the vote, emphasized what it called unfair treatment of minority nominees.

Clinton continued that theme yesterday, turning the focus on Hispanic judges.

"They just disappear somewhere in the dark recesses of the calendar of the Senate," Clinton said.

"Why? Well, they don't want to vote him down because they hope that you will vote with them in the next election, but they don't want to vote for him."

He said the Senate was dragging its feet on the nominations of Judge Richard Paez of California, the first Mexican-American to serve on the federal bench in Los Angeles, for a vacancy on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Marsha Berzon, an appellate lawyer, also in the 9th Circuit; Judge Julio Fuentes in the 3rd Circuit; Enrique Moreno, a lawyer, in the 5th Circuit; and Judge Ronald Guzman for the Northern District of Illinois.

"Now, I think the treatment of Richard Paez and Marsha Berzon is shameless," Clinton said.

"I am pleased to announce that Judge Guzman finally received his Judiciary Committee hearing last week for a vacancy here," Clinton said.

"But the Senate's treatment of Judge White and its failure to vote on the outstanding Hispanic nominees that are pending creates a real doubt" about the Senate's willingness to perform its "constitutional duties to advise and consent."

"I have always wanted an administration that looks like America," the president said.

"You've heard me say that a dozen times, I bet. More and more, America will look like you."

Pub Date: 10/10/99

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