NYT: GOP senator removes his block on federal court nominee

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Published: Monday December 18, 2006
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A Republican senator with his eyes on the White House has pulled his block on a nominee for federal court, the New York Times will report on the first page of its Tuesday edition.

"Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who had blocked the confirmation of a woman to the federal bench because she attended a same-sex commitment ceremony for the daughter of her long-time neighbors, says he will now allow a vote on the nomination," writes Neil A. Lewis for the Times.

Brownback is mulling a run for the GOP nomination in the 2008 presidential primary season.

Lewis reports that Brownback, who remarked earlier "that he still believed [nominee Janet Neff's] behavior raised serious questions about her impartiality," now says "he did not realize his proposal -- asking a nominee to agree in advance to remove herself from deciding a whole category of cases -- was so unusual as to be possibly unprecedented.

"Legal scholars," Lewis continues, "said it raised constitutional questions of separation of powers for a senator to demand that a judge commit to behavior on the bench in exchange for a vote."

Further excerpts from the registration-restricted article follow...

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Mr. Brownback, who has been criticized for blocking the nomination, said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.

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Mr. Brownback said that he believed Judge Neff's attendance at the 2002 ceremony merited further investigation, but that he had not meant to set any precedent with his proposal. "It was the last day of the session and I was just trying to provide some accommodation to see if we could make this thing go forward," he said.

He said that "this is a big hot-button issue" and that Judge Neff had not made it clear that her presence at the ceremony did not mean she could not rule without bias in deciding cases involving same-sex unions. "Iíd like to know more factually about what took place," he said.

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Mr. Brownback, a member of the Judiciary Committee who supported those other nominees, has tried to put himself forward as the Republican presidential contender who best represents the interests of the nationís conservative religious community.

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