Friday, November 14, 2003
Senate Cloture Votes on Kuhl, Brown Scheduled for Today
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has scheduled votes for today in an effort to cut off debate on the federal appeals court nominations of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl.
The Republican leader also scheduled a fourth cloture vote on Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the GOP has yet to gain anywhere near the 60 votes needed to win any cloture vote on a judicial nominee this year.
Frist scheduled those votes as the Senate undertook a 30-hour debate over Republican efforts to pry conservative nominees loose from Democratic filibusters. Before the debate began in earnest, Frist asked Democrats to agree to votes on Brown, Kuhl, and Owen, but the minority party objected.
President Bush lent his voice to the effort yesterday, accusing the Senate of “shameful” inaction on his judicial nominees. Bush was joined by Brown, Kuhl, and Owen as he demanded that they each get an up-or-down vote.
“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 said. “The senators who are playing politics with their nominations are acting shamefully.”
Brown has been nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Kuhl for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But after an all-night session that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania acknowledged was “theater,” and Democrats derided as a gimmick to satisfy conservative contributors whose “envelopes came back empty”—as Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York put it—because they felt GOP senators had not done enough to push Bush’s choices, neither appeared any closer to confirmation.
Republicans insisted there was no precedent for refusing to allow votes on the president’s judicial choices. Democrats said the GOP-led Senate was championing judges who do not represent American mainstream views.
The first overnight session in a decade did little to close the partisan divide over judges that has prevailed since the Clinton presidency. Democrats blocked Republican attempts to schedule confirmation votes, and Republicans stopped Democrats from raising issues on the Senate floor such as a higher minimum wage.
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said it was regrettable that Bush had “politicized these nominations and raised the level of confrontation within the debate itself.”
Democrats have filibustered the nominations of Owen, Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, and lawyer Miguel Estrada, who asked the president to withdraw his nomination after he lost a sixth cloture vote.
Pryor has been nominated to the Eleventh Circuit and Pickering to the Fifth Circuit. Estrada was nominated to the District of Columbia Circuit.
Cloture Change Proposed
Republicans considered, and then put off, seeking a vote yesterday on a proposal by Frist, R-Tenn., and Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., that would gradually reduce the number of votes needed to end a filibuster on an individual judicial nomination until a simple majority of 51 sufficed.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a member of the GOP leadership, said some in his party opposed the rules change because they were “licking their chops” in anticipation of retaliating in kind when a future Democratic president nominates judges.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Republicans hoped the debate “might stimulate enough outrage by the American public to sway at least a few more Democratic senators to do the right thing and give these nominees a vote.”
Democrats said they had joined Republicans in confirming 168 judges during Bush’s term in office, stopping only four. They repeated that Republicans were concentrating on finding jobs for those four nominees while paying inadequate attention to the 3 million jobs lost since Bush took office.
The sideshows overshadowed much of the debate as Republicans brought in cots and coffee and invited conservative groups for hourly news conferences through the night. Frist said he had gotten 53 minutes of sleep, then ran four miles on a treadmill.
Democrats brandished posters saying “168-4,” to emphasize their confirmation record. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., had a T-shirt saying “we confirmed 98 percent of President Bush’s judges” on the front, while the back said, “and all we got was this lousy T-shirt.”
But both sides were also aware of the significance of confirming judges—and potential future candidates for the Supreme Court—whose views could affect policy on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and the role of religion in public affairs.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., spoke of embarking on “a great debate and potentially a collision course, some may say, between those who believe in God, that he has a role to play in the cultural and moral fabric of this nation, and those who prefer to sanitize our public institutions of any reference to God.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., spoke in anger about a political ad run by the conservative Committee for Justice suggesting that Democrats were impeding Catholic nominees who oppose abortion.
She said she was ready to vote for Alabama’s Pryor, an anti-abortion Catholic, before she saw the ad. “My father is a Catholic judge and my sister is a Catholic judge. I don’t have problems with Catholic judges, I don’t have problems with William Pryor. I have problems with this red-meat rhetoric that is anti-American, anti-constitutional and defies every principle of this country,” she said.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company