31 rejected judicial picks are renominated by BushList includes Priscilla Owen
Chuck Lindell, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
January 8, 2003
WASHINGTON -- President Bush wasted no time taking advantage of the Republican resurgence in Congress, renominating friend and fellow Texan Priscilla Owen and 30 other judicial nominees who failed to win confirmation when Democrats ran the Senate.
The list also included Charles Pickering, a mild surprise after the Mississippi judge's nomination was clouded by accusations of racial insensitivity. Some Republicans thought Pickering's chances would be ruined by his friendship with Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who resigned his position as Senate GOP leader after making racially insensitive remarks in December.
Democrats vowed vigorous opposition, including a possible filibuster.
"Unfortunately, they have not learned from the Trent Lott episodes, and I am going to do everything I can to stop the Pickering nomination from going forward," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Pickering and Owen on party-line votes last year after Democrats labeled them too ideologically extreme for lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Democrats intended the votes as a rebuke for Bush and urged the president to steer a more moderate course on future nominees.
That was before Republicans regained majority control of the Senate, virtually ensuring that Bush's judicial picks will be approved. Indeed, the White House released its nominee list late Tuesday -- the day the new Congress convened -- with no comment, leaving the clear implication that GOP momentum is expected to carry the day.
Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice, was renominated to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Priscilla Owen's nomination is an important part of the unfinished business left by the Senate in the previous Congress," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who as a member of the Judiciary Committee will play a role in Owen's confirmation. "I am confident that this outstanding jurist will be approved overwhelmingly."
Ralph Neas, president of the civil liberties group People for the American Way, criticized Bush for again choosing confrontation over cooperation.
"Now that he has Republicans in control of the Senate, he's counting on a rubber stamp for his far-right nominees, even judges like Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen, who were defeated after open hearings on their troubling public records," Neas said.
Democrats had criticized Owen for several rulings related to abortion rights and what they called an anti-consumer bias.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, defended Owen's record. "Her qualifications are indisputable, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to approve her nomination as soon as possible," Hutchison said.
The White House list includes 29 other Bush nominees who did not receive hearings in the Democrat-controlled Senate. One of them is retired Texas Rep. Rob Junell, a San Angelo Democrat who endorsed and campaigned for Bush for president.