The nominees for Texas’s long-open four U.S. Attorney posts are slated to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, after nearly three years of bitter partisan wrangling over their selection.
President Barack Obama’s choices of Robert Lee Pitman to head the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Antonio, Kenneth Magidson for Houston; John Malcolm Bales in Tyler, Tex., and Sarah Ruth Saldana in Dallas were received as a slap in the face by Texas’s congressional Democrats, who lost a hard-fought battle for influence over the selection. Instead, Obama went with candidates recommended by Texas’s two Republican senators - John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Most U.S. Attorney nominations advance without comment from the Senate panel to consideration by the full Senate. But given the passions that the Texas nominations aroused among some Texas Democrats - notably Austin-area Rep. Lloyd Doggett — and the fact that Cornyn is on the Judiciary panel, it’s possible the meeting Thursday will spark some discussion.
Also on the agenda for Thursday’s business meeting is the nomination of S. Amanda Marshall for Oregon U.S. Attorney. Marshall was nominated last November, but the Senate adjourned before her nomination was addressed, causing it to expire. The White House resubmitted Marshall’s nomination in early March. The current U.S. Attorney in Portland, Dwight Holton, a brother-in-law of former Virginia Gov. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder in early 2010 and later appointed indefinitely to the post by a court. His application in 2009 to head the office on a permanent basis didn’t advance.
A state’s senators traditionally recommend U.S. Attorney and federal judicial candidates to the White House for nomination. But if neither senator is a member of the president’s political party, the White House often defers to House members from the state who share his same political affiliation.
The Obama White House has shown a pattern of backing down when it gets push-back from Republican senators over Democratic choices for U.S. Attorney. In another federal prosecutor post that has long gone unfilled - the U.S. Attorney’s office in Utah - Obama recently nominated David Barlow, an aide to Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee, a Tea Party favorite.
The Judiciary meeting is slated for 10 a.m. Thursday and will also consider nominations for federal judges and a U.S. Marshal.
Mary Jacoby contributed to this report, which has been corrected to reflect the correct spelling of Robert Lee Pitman’s name and that Kenneth Magidson is the nominee to head the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston.