Steve Six deserved better

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran may have succeeded Thursday in killing President Obama’s nomination of former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six to the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals.

That’s no credit to either senator, because their fellow Kansan has the resume and reputation for the job.

After weeks of delay, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Thursday that the panel would not take up the nomination “in deference to the objections of the Kansas senators” — though he noted in a letter to Roberts that no disqualifying information had emerged in the committee’s review process, confirmation hearing or other questioning of Six.

According to Associated Press, documents indicate that Roberts initially approved of Six’s nomination. It was Leahy’s understanding, AP also reported, that Obama had consulted with both senators before nominating Six and believed him to be a consensus nominee.

Roberts and Moran restated their opposition to Six in a letter Monday to Leahy, “respectfully requesting that the committee not process this nominee.” Their earlier statements had only mentioned unspecified problems with Six’s qualifications and testimony.

At least Roberts went into more detail in a statement Thursday — complaining that Six “failed to see any constitutional defects with the newly passed health care reform law,” “deferred the approval for a wiretap application to a subordinate” on a drug case and “deferred responsibility to a subordinate” on an investigation of Planned Parenthood.

But Roberts’ reasons seem like weak excuses. In fact, Six was right not to rush the cash-strapped state into suing the federal government over the health care reform law, preferring to let other states pay for legal challenges whose outcome will apply to all states. And isn’t deferring responsibilities to subordinates part of an attorney general’s job?

Roberts and Moran appeared to be doing the bidding of anti-abortion groups in opposing Six. The groups don’t like Six because he was appointed attorney general by pro-choice Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and he let the law — rather than anti-abortion zeal — be his guide in investigating and prosecuting abortion providers.

The fact that Six is a Democrat should have been irrelevant to Moran and Roberts, just as it was to Six during the three years he ably spent restoring order to the Attorney General’s Office after Republican Phill Kline’s anti-abortion crusade and Democrat Paul Morrison’s sex scandal.

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary gave Six’s nomination its highest rating. His professionalism and judgment have been praised by 29 state attorneys general, Republicans as well as Democrats. Six’s supporters have included five current and former deans of the University of Kansas School of Law and Deanell Reece Tacha, the Reagan appointee and former Kansan he would replace on the 10th Circuit.

In his own letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for Six’s confirmation, former Republican Attorney General Robert Stephan said Six had never let politics interfere with his responsibilities.

Too bad the same cannot be said about Roberts and Moran, and that a 10th Circuit seat that should have gone to a Kansan now may end up going to someone from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming or Utah.

— For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman