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ERLC, others reiterate call to end judicial filibusters as more nominees are blocked

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy leaders have reiterated a call to end filibusters of judicial nominees, as two more of President Bush’s federal appeals court nominees are being blocked from a vote.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other organizations restated in a June 30 letter and news conference their opposition to the parliamentary maneuver in the Senate to block confirmation votes on President Bush’s selections for the federal judiciary. The National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters urged Republican senators by letter to halt the “obstruction” and called specifically for the confirmation of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Richard Land, the ERLC’s president, and Barrett Duke, the entity’s vice president for public policy and research, signed on to the letter, as did Steve Lemke, provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Land, Duke and Lemke endorsed a letter in May also asking GOP senators to vote to end the use of the filibuster on nominees to the federal judiciary. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist scheduled a vote later in May to change a rule, thereby requiring only a majority to break a filibuster on judicial nominees. Ending a filibuster currently requires 60 votes. The night before that vote, seven Republicans and seven Democrats announced an agreement that prevented a vote on a rule change but also provided for the confirmation of some of the filibustered appeals court nominees.

In June, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution calling for the Senate to confirm judicial nominees by the traditional majority vote and for presidents to nominate judges who “interpret rather than make law.” The resolution also commended Frist and encouraged Southern Baptists to urge their senators to halt the “obstruction of judicial nominees.”

Saad and William Myers, who is in private practice as a lawyer, are the two appellate nominees left out of the May 23 agreement crafted by the 14 senators. Bush nominated Myers to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Saad and Myers “have been held hostage by a minority that refuses to accept that their vision for America’s future is out of step with the vision of the majority of Americans and their elected leadership,” the ERLC’s Duke said at the Washington news conference. The developments regarding Saad and Myers demonstrate “we have already stumbled over the corpse of the short-lived, poorly conceived, disingenuous compromise,” Duke said.

Also speaking at the news conference, Marshall Manson, the Center for Individual Freedom’s vice president of public affairs, said, “Judge Saad has been thrown under the bus, plain and simple. [He] has been waiting for years. It’s time for the Senate to vote.”

Saad has received four separate nominations to the federal judiciary by two different presidents but has yet to gain confirmation. Even after strong criticism by Democrats, the American Bar Association raised Saad’s rating this year from “qualified” to “well-qualified.”

In an interview published July 5 by USA Today, Bush continued to push for floor votes for all of his nominees, whether to the Supreme Court or other benches in the federal judiciary. “I think all my judges should get an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate,” the president said. Bush is considering whom to nominate to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired July 1 from the Supreme Court.

In the coalition’s letter to Republican senators, it described the compromise by the 14 Senate members as a “defeat of principle that dishonored the Constitution, ignored an election and went entirely in the wrong direction.”

Since that agreement, the Senate has confirmed five previously filibustered nominees: Priscilla Owen; Janice Rogers Brown; William Pryor; Richard Griffin, and David McKeague.

Among other signers to the latest letter were Beverly LaHaye and Jan LaRue, both of Concerned Women for America; Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family; Roy Innis, Congress of Racial Equality; Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel; D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries; Don Wildmon, American Family Association; Connie Mackey, vice president of Family Research Council; Paul Weyrich, Coalitions for America; and Rick Scarborough, Vision America.