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For week ended March 12, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 10Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Senator Harry Reid Championed Paez Nomination
(After Long Delays, Senate Confirms 2 Judicial Nominees)
New York Times 10Mar00 P2
By Neil A. Lewis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The long-stalled nomination of LDS judge Richard A. Paez to the Nineth Circuit Court of Appeals was finally resolved yesterday when the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination 59 to 39. But the confirmation only happened when Paez' mother, Polly, called Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, an LDS Church member and the Senate's second-ranking Democrat and asked him to intervene with other LDS Church members in the Senate. "So that's what I did," said Senator Reid.

While the votes of LDS Senators were only one of the factors behind Paez' confirmation, it may have been the deciding one. In addition to Reid, three other LDS Senators, Orrin G. Hatch and Robert F. Bennett of Utah, and Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, all Republicans, voted for his confirmation. Hatch is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which, along with the Senate's Republican leadership had held up Paez' confirmation for four years. The other LDS Senator, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, voted against Paez' confirmation.

Paez' confirmation was more than just an ordinary dispute over nominations, reports the Times' Lewis. The debate over his nomination touched on a range of issues including fund-raising scandals, whether Senate Republicans are tougher on Hispanic and female nominees as well as ideology. Many criticized Paez as too liberal, and statements he had made about anti-affirmative action propositions in California made Republicans uncomfortable.

The three LDS votes put Paez so close to confirmation that Vice President Al Gore returned to Washington from his campaign stops late Wednesday night so that he could be there, in case the Senate tied. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Vice President can cast the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate in case of a tie.

This led Republican leaders to make sure enough Republicans voted for the nomination to assure passage. "We sure weren't going to let him come riding in on a horse to save the day," one senior Republican staff aide said.

Reid's work in getting the nomination past the Senate was crucial. According to Reid, he was to "play the Mormon card but also the Hispanic card, the fairness card and any other card I could think of." He had even asked Mrs. Paez to come to Washington to lobby for her son, "But she's kind of ailing," Mr. Reid said. "So she asked me to it."

But Reid refused to take much credit for getting the nomination through the Senate. When he telephoned Judge Paez to congratulate him, he said, "Your mother really helped do this."


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