Owen won't be confirmed, Senate Democrats vowChuck Lindell, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
April 30, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats vowed Tuesday to filibuster the judicial nomination of Texan Priscilla Owen, flatly stating that the Senate will not confirm the Texas Supreme Court justice.
"Priscilla Owen is not going to be approved. Fact," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. "We should get off of her and onto judges we agree with."
Senate Republicans, running out of patience on the treatment of President Bush's judicial nominations, will seek to force a vote on Owen's nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week or next, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.
Republicans need 60 votes to end debate and force a vote, something they have been unable to accomplish for another judicial nominee, Miguel Estrada, despite four attempts. Reid promised more of the same for Owen, whom Democrats consider to be a conservative activist.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, responded with his own promise: that Owen and Estrada would be confirmed by year's end.
Meanwhile, freshman Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tuesday that he will begin the daunting task of changing Senate rules to break future impasses over judicial nominations. As chairman of the constitution subcommittee, Cornyn will call fellow senators and constitutional scholars to testify at a hearing "so we can work our way out of this mess," he said.
The goal would be a timely Judiciary Committee hearing and vote for every nominee, followed by a vote on the Senate floor, he said.
To succeed, Cornyn must overcome Senate reluctance to follow newcomers, but he thinks his status could help. "As a new member of the Senate, somebody who wasn't here when all the sins of the past were committed by both sides, I can try to find a clean break and a fresh start," Cornyn said. "My perception is that a lot of senators hate the place we're in right now, but they don't know how to get out of it."
He also said he can convince Democrats that a rules change is in their long-term interest and not a GOP ploy to pack courts with controversial nominees. "One of the great certainties around here is: What goes around, comes around," he said. "If this filibuster of Republican nominees persists, you can be assured that it will be trotted out when a Democratic president nominates somebody Republicans don't like. That would be just a continuation of the tragedy."
Also on Tuesday, the Senate voted 52-41 to confirm Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Many Democrats and civil rights groups had opposed the nomination, saying the former Ohio solicitor general worked to water down protections for disabled people. Only two Democrats voted for Sutton: Dianne Feinstein of California and Bill Nelson of Florida.