Despite extending the unprecedented 30-hour talkathon on the Senate floor by more than nine hours, Republicans failed to force a vote on President Bush’s three judicial nominees deemed too conservative for the American mainstream by Democrats.
Republicans launched the round-the-clock debate Wednesday night to counter Democratic filibusters on the nominations of Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judges Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown.
At the outset, Democrats warned the Republican tactic wouldn’t work.
“I’m terribly disappointed that we are spending the time of this institution on something like this when we need to be spending what little time we have on so many other questions,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., during the debate.
In the end, Republicans failed to muster the 60 votes needed to break the filibusters and advance the nominations, or “invoke cloture,” as the procedure is called. Republicans hold 51 seats in the Senate.
The motions to invoke cloture for Owen and Brown both failed on a 53-42 vote. Kuhl’s nomination was stalled by a 53-43 vote.
“What we just witnessed is a perfect illustration of how far the Senate has gone away from its tradition, how far people are willing to go in their partisan zeal to defeat really qualified candidates, nominees for the federal judiciary and how dangerous it is to do that,” chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Orin Hatch, R-Utah, commented in a press conference following the Senate action.
Yesterday, Bush called the Democrats efforts to block his nominees “shameful” and demanded the Senate give them an up or down vote.
President Bush promotes judicial nominees Carolyn Kuhl, Janice Brown, and Priscilla Owen in the Oval Office Nov. 13, 2003.
“I have told these three ladies I will stand with them to the bitter end because they’re the absolute right pick for their respective positions,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office, while flanked by the three nominees. “The senators who are playing politics with their nominations are acting shamefully.”
Bush nominated Owen for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Brown for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Kuhl for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
All three nominees were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and had enough bipartisan support to get the simple majority in a full-Senate vote needed to be confirmed.
Because of this, Sen. Lindsay Graham, the South Carolina Republican, accused Democrats of using Senate rules “in an unconstitutional manner.”
Democrats countered this was just business as usual and argued Republicans used filibusters to block far more of President Clinton’s judicial nominations.
The Senate has confirmed 168 Bush judicial nominees.
Democrats have blocked six Bush nominees, including Mississippi judge Charles Pickering, Alabama Attorney General William Pryor and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada, who withdrew his nomination after losing nine filibuster votes.
Despite today’s failed nominations, Republicans claim progress with the talkathon.
“I think one thing that was made clear here today is that this Senate – and a lot of these Senators who were there all night last night – will not stand by and allow the erosion of an independent judiciary, will not allow the politicization of the judiciary, and will stand and fight for it becaise it is a cornerstone of American liberty and American economic progress,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told reporters.
WorldNetDaily reported critics saw the “character assassination” of California Supreme Court Justice Brown by Senate Democrats – and by mainstream media outlets like the New York Times – was reminiscent of the failed Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork and the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Janice Rogers Brown
Brown, a 54-year-old black woman and daughter of a sharecropper from Alabama, showed tenacity in dealing with hostile questioning by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Indeed she has been an outspoken opponent of racial preferences and a strong critic of government power grabs. In her tenure on California’s high court, she wrote the principal opinion enforcing Proposition 209, the referendum prohibiting affirmative action programs. Although her colleagues agreed with her, some refused to join her opinion in the 2000 case, saying she had gone too far and had used needlessly scathing language in an effort to extend the proposition’s reach.
A New York Times editorial called Brown “an archconservative” who “has declared war on the mainstream legal values that most Americans hold dear.”
Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell and others say the real agenda of the Senate Democrats, led By Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and People for the American Way is to use the courts to legislate their own left-wing social agenda, which includes racial quotas and unrestricted abortion on demand.
“Judges who believe that their job is to uphold the Constitution, instead of replacing it with left-wing social engineering, are anathema to ‘People for the American Way,'” writes Sowell. “That they are spearheading the character assassination of Justice Janice Rogers Brown is completely predictable.”