The Senate confirmation of Judge Saad presents a critical test for Senate leaders chastened by the deal. Saad Deserves a Vote

Henry Saad got thrown under the bus. Plain and simple.

Under the provisions of the recent backroom deal cut by fourteen Senators so they could weasel out of voting on the Constitutional Option, three of the President’s nominees to the federal bench were assured fair up-or-down votes. Two weren’t. And one of them was Judge Henry Saad.

The effort to sacrifice Saad demonstrates the amoral crassness of the deal. Indeed, the principle underlying the agreement is impossible to grasp because there isn’t any. Saad was the least ideologically controversial of the five nominees that the deal addressed, yet his nomination was the first put on the chopping block. Sadly, Saad became a prop in the classic Senate parlor game, “Race you to the press conference.”

Led by Minority Leader Harry Reid, Saad’s opponents have made defamatory references to his FBI file without providing any specifics. They throw around terms like “judicial temperament” and make it sound like Saad has something to hide. But they offer nothing to support their claims, content to let their smear stand on its own and ignoring the fact that two Presidents and the Senate Judiciary Committee have all looked at the same FBI file and backed Saad’s nomination.

Judge Saad deserves better.

After first being nominated to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to act on Saad’s nomination. In 1994, he was named to the Michigan Court of Appeals, a post to which he has been re-elected twice with bipartisan support. In November 2001, President Bush nominated Judge Saad to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. He’s been awaiting Senate confirmation ever since.

As a respected jurist who previously enjoyed a distinguished career as a practicing attorney and still serves as a law professor, Judge Saad is eminently qualified to serve on the federal appellate bench. His mainstream record as a state judge has attracted broad bipartisan support for his nomination. Groups as far apart on the political spectrum as the United Auto Workers and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have endorsed him. Hailing from the state with the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East, Judge Saad would be the first Arab-American ever to serve on the 6th Circuit.

Fortunately, despite the deal-cutters’ best efforts, Saad’s nomination isn’t dead yet. Indeed, the Senate confirmation of Judge Saad presents a critical test for Senate leaders chastened by the deal.

Instead of blithely accepting the judgment of fourteen deal makers, Majority Leader Frist should push for a fair up-or-down vote on Saad’s nomination on the Senate floor. Such a move would demonstrate a commitment to the principle of up-or-down votes for all of the President’s judicial nominees, a question left open thanks to the deal.

But Senate time is limited and precious, and some are concerned that Frist will move on from judicial nominations after this week without forcing Senators to consider Saad’s nomination. That would be a terrible mistake.

Saad has been nominated by two Presidents. He’s been recommended to the full Senate by a majority of the members of the Judiciary Committee twice. He’s endured the FBI digging through his life periodically for the last twelve years as a part of the confirmation process. He’s put his life on hold since November of 2001, waiting for the Senate to act on his nomination. And now, he’s had to suffer through unsubstantiated, partisan character assassination on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

For justice, Henry Saad deserves a vote, and the Senate leadership ought to make sure he gets one.

June 9, 2005
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