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Archive for Saturday, May 14, 2005

Senate heads toward showdown

Judicial nominees likely to be test case on filibuster issue

May 14, 2005

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— California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and a Texas judge were named Friday as the federal judicial nominees who will be considered by the Senate next week, a move expected to trigger a long-awaited showdown with Democrats.

The announcement Friday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., propels Brown and Priscilla Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, to center stage of a political brawl that has gripped the Senate for weeks -- use of the filibuster against a president's picks for federal judgeships.

The tactic -- a procedural move allowing unlimited debate -- is the weapon of the weak in the Senate. It requires 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to end a filibuster; winning confirmation requires a simple majority of 51.

Democrats relied on the filibuster threat to block President Bush's nomination of Brown, Owen and eight others to federal appellate courts during his first term, saying they were too conservative. Earlier this year, Bush resubmitted seven of the nominees, including Brown and Owen.

Republicans say they all deserve a vote on the Senate floor. With Republicans holding 55 seats in the chamber, Bush's choices would likely be confirmed.

Brown and Owen were among the resubmitted nominees who Democrats have said they would again filibuster. Republicans have responded by threatening to change the rules to bar use of filibusters against judicial nominees.

"It is time for 100 senators to decide the issue of fair up-or-down votes for judicial nominees after over two years of unprecedented obstructionism," Frist said in a statement Friday.

In a response issued by his office, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he welcomed the debate.

"The time has come for Republican senators to decide whether they will abide by the rules of the Senate or break those rules for the first time in 217 years of American history," the statement said.

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