Bush Judicial Nominee Moves Forward
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The Senate broke a lengthy logjam today on the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown. She's been named for a seat on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Under a deal worked out last month, the Senate voted to limit further debate on her nomination. An up-or-down confirmation vote comes tomorrow. As NPR's David Welna reports, Senate Democrats aren't giving up on the efforts to defeat Brown.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
As the first African-American woman to sit on California's Supreme Court and as the daughter of a one-time Alabama sharecropper, Janice Rogers Brown has the kind of life story and personal profile that's made it awkward for some Democrats to oppose her nomination. But Democratic Whip Dick Durbin today compared her speeches to that of a right-wing radio host and said her court rulings show she's a judicial activist.
Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois; Minority Whip): She wants the government to invade your privacy when it comes to decisions about birth control and your family, but she doesn't want the government to stop the gas station down the street from selling cigarettes to a 12-year-old. What in the world is going through her head?
WELNA: But Utah Republican Orrin Hatch said Democrats were being unfair to Brown. He called her a `model jurist.'
Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): You can't have anybody that's been on the court as long as she has that somebody can't pluck cases out of the air and distort them or find some fault with them. I'm sure I can find fault with some of her cases. But the point is this is a woman who does what's right.
WELNA: The Senate then voted 65-to-32 for what's called cloture, precluding a filibuster of Brown's nomination. Majority Leader Bill Frist sought to portray that vote as indicative of a new mood in the Senate rather than as the product of a deal that he was not a part of.
Senator BILL FRIST (Republican, Tennessee; Majority Leader): I remain optimistic that the Senate is moving in a new direction on judicial nominees, rejecting the partisan obstructionism of the past and embracing the principle that all judicial nominees deserve a fair up-or-down vote.
WELNA: All but three of the 10 Democrats who voted with every Republican to give Brown an up-or-down vote were part of the showdown-averting deal on judges. Louisiana's Mary Landrieu was one of them.
Senator MARY LANDRIEU (Democrat, Louisiana): I voted for cloture, again, as in a spirit of the agreement, to try to move some of these nominations through with an up-or-down vote, although I will say that there is nothing in the law that requires an up-or-down vote on these judges.
WELNA: Still, Landrieu intends to vote against Brown's confirmation tomorrow. Democratic Leader Harry Reid today said he hoped it will not only be Democrats who oppose Brown.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Minority Leader): Republicans should vote against this woman. She was not good for the judiciary. Now as to whether any of them will or not, I don't know.
WELNA: But Oregon Republican Gordon Smith says he's not about to be swayed by Democrats.
Senator GORDON SMITH (Republican, Oregon): They are wasting their words on me. And just like I voted for Clinton's judges, I'm going to vote for President Bush's qualified judges as well.
WELNA: Maine Republican Susan Collins, on the other hand, says she's not yet made up her mind.
Senator SUSAN COLLINS (Republican, Maine): Words are never wasted on me. I always listen carefully to the debate. At this point I am inclined to vote for her.
WELNA: With last week's confirmation of Priscilla Owen and tomorrow's vote on Brown, one more contentious nominee protected by the truce on judges remains. A final vote on that nominee, William Pryor, is expected Thursday. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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