After Democrats blocked the nomination for more than two years, President Bush installed Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering to a federal appeals court in a recess appointment.
Judge Charles Pickering
The move bypasses the confirmation process, allowing Pickering to serve on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans until the next Congress is seated in January 2005.
Democrats charge Pickering holds extremist views that would influence his decisions on the court. Civil rights groups said he would threaten the progress of African Americans, and abortion-rights groups accused him of “hostility” toward the rights of women because of his opposition to abortion.
Bush has criticized Pickering’s opponents in the Senate.
“He is a good, fair-minded man, and the treatment he has received by a handful of senators is a disgrace,” the president said last year. “He has wide bipartisan support from those who know him best.”
One year ago, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle vowed Democrats would use all strategies – including a filibuster – to prevent Pickering from being approved.
“We’re going to do everything we can, everything we can, to stop that nomination, on the floor and in the committee,” Daschle said on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.
The South Dakota Democrat alleged Pickering’s record is less than stellar when it comes to the rights of minorities.
“You look through his history,” said Daschle, “not only as a judge, but as a state legislator and in many other capacities, George, and there is no question, his insensitivity to civil rights, to equal rights, especially to minorities, is something that is well-documented. This man does not deserve to be in the second-highest court in the land and we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”
“I think this really lays bare the administration’s real position on civil rights. This exposes the Southern Strategy, clearly. There is no doubt in my mind we now know from where they come,” he said.
After his first nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Pickering was defeated 10-9 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Democrats still held a majority. Civil rights groups said he supported segregation as a young man in Mississippi.
But Republicans and Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said Democrats were playing a familiar game.
“I think this, unfortunately, is trying to use race and racial issues to play politics,” Frist said on “Fox News Sunday.”
He also argued Democrats had ignored other actions by Pickering, including his testimony in 1967 against the Ku Klux Klan’s imperial wizard.
“Judge Pickering is a well-qualified judge,” Frist said, noting the American Bar Association used those words to describe him.”