Archive for Saturday, February 21, 2004

Bush bypasses Senate to install judge

February 21, 2004


— Bypassing angry Senate Democrats, President Bush installed Alabama Atty. Gen. William Pryor as a U.S. appeals court judge on Friday in his second "recess appointment" of a controversial nominee in five weeks.

Pryor's federal appointment has been vigorously opposed by Democratic senators who have objected to his past comments and writings on abortion and homosexuality.

Bush praised Pryor as a "leading American lawyer" and said he had been pushed past the Senate's normal confirmation process because of "unprecedented obstructionist tactics" against Pryor and five other nominees.

The president said of the Democratic blockers, "Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system."

Pryor was immediately sworn in in Alabama by another 11th Circuit judge.

The Constitution gives the president authority to install nominees in office when Congress is not in session. Both houses were out this week for the Presidents Day holiday. But the appointments are good only until the end of the next session of Congress, in this case the end of 2005.

Last month, Bush used a similar appointment to promote Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bush said Pryor's "impressive record demonstrated his devotion to the rule of law and to treating all people equally under the law."

However, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said none of Bush's nominees was more controversial than Pryor.

"Actions like this show the American people that this White House will stop at nothing to try to turn the independent federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party," Leahy said.

Democratic presidential contender John Edwards said Pryor had "a long record of vigorous efforts to deny Americans basic rights under our laws."

"This is one more example of why we need a new president," said Edwards, D-N.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bush picked Pryor last April for a seat on the 11th Circuit that covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Abortion rights advocates immediately mounted a campaign against the nominee, citing his criticism of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

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