Only two ways to end Nevada judicial standoff?

OK, now what?

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller met Friday with District Court Judge Elissa Cadish for half an hour. But at the end of the sit-down, Heller said he would still not give his permission for her nomination to go forward.

“I respect Judge Cadish and believe she has had many great accomplishments in her career,” Heller said in a statement. “However, I cannot support her nomination as a federal judge. I believe an individual citizen has the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and cannot in good conscience support a nominee whose commitment to the Constitution’s Second Amendment is in doubt.”

Heller’s good-conscience problem arose after a 2008 questionnaire surfaced in which Cadish — asked if she believed there was an individual right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment — answered no. “I do not believe that there is this constitutional right,” she wrote. “Thus, I believe that reasonable restrictions may be imposed on gun ownership in the interest of public safety. Of course, I will enforce the laws as they exist as a judge,” she wrote.

Then again, she wrote that before a pair of landmark rulings on the Second Amendment in which the Supreme Court confirmed there is an individual right. Cadish later allowed in a letter to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid that if asked the question today she’d answer differently and in the affirmative.

But that wasn’t enough to persuade Heller, who has decided to withhold his signature on the so-called blue slip. (Senate tradition dictates a nomination not go forward without both home-state senators’ signatures on the blue slip.)

Heller’s intransigence is not surprising, since he indicated before he met with Cadish that he wouldn’t change his mind. And Reid, who suggested Cadish to President Barack Obama as a nominee, said he would not ask her to withdraw. “Judge Cadish is exceptionally qualified to serve on Nevada’s federal bench, and I strongly stand by her nomination,” Reid said. “The unprecedented refusal to allow Judge Cadish a hearing to answer questions and explain her views is not fair to Nevadans who deserve to hear what she has to say.”

Again, the question: Now what?

Heller won’t relent and Reid won’t withdraw Cadish’s name. Her nomination will expire when this term of Congress ends at year’s end, or she could ask that her name be withdrawn before then. Or …

Or Reid could contravene Senate tradition and ask Judiciary Committee Chairman U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to hold a hearing and a vote on Cadish’s nomination anyway.

Reid has shown that kind of flexibility before: He did not raise objections when Obama made several recess appointments even though the Senate was not technically in recess. (Senators were holding pro-forma sessions — a tactic invented by Reid during the George W. Bush years — specifically to prevent such appointments.)

If Reid had no problem with recess appointments that implicate constitutional provisions, how much less should he object to the derogation of a simple Senate tradition, which does not have the force of law or even Senate rules?

Yes, objections would be loud that Reid is upending the process for his own benefit. But Heller’s unfortunate, blue-slip blockade is obstructing the proper administration of government.

Oh, and for all those objecting that Reid blocked votes on plenty of Bush nominees, and he’s just getting a taste of what he gave then, a question: Will you be content in a future Republican administration when minority Democrats deny judges even a hearing or committee vote, and then tell you “It’s payback time, baby!”? If not, you should support a hearing for Cadish as well.

 

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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