HONOLULU - Two Republican U.S. senators criticizing a conference planned for federal judges on Maui said the top judge for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is unapologetic and his response could affect congressional budgeting for the court one step below the Supreme Court.
A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Wednesday reiterated comments Sessions made last month that if nothing changes, the Senate may evaluate the judicial branch's budget request. Sessions is the senior Republican of the Senate Budget Committee.
"Ultimately, the Congress has the power to appropriate money, and we need to evaluate the judicial branch's budget request in light of some of these expenditures," Sessions told Fox News in May.
Sessions and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last month called the conference a lavish event that strikes the wrong tone in a time of government budget cuts.
It's not clear what the conference will cost. The court doesn't have a list of all the travel expenses. Grassley and Sessions have said it could cost $1 million, and say it would be cheaper to hold it somewhere else.
The court's chief judge, Alex Kozinski, defended the conference in a response letter last week as a gathering for serious business meetings within the jurisdiction of the federal courts in the 9th Circuit. The court serves Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Maui was picked for its competitive room rates and cheaper travel costs because of the number of airlines serving Hawaii, Kozinski wrote, and Anchorage, Alaska and Sun Valley, Idaho were also considered. "At $230 per night, the Hyatt on Maui compares favorably with similarly sized hotels in Anchorage, Alaska, and Sun Valley, as well as several California destinations," he wrote.