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GOP puts spotlight on judicial filibusters with weeklong strategy

WASHINGTON (BP)–Senate Republicans began July 29 a weeklong strategy of highlighting what they consider obstructionist tactics by Democrats on judicial nominees.

GOP senators have scheduled votes on justices each day this week, setting the stage for what could result in four straight filibusters, the Associated Press reported.

So far, Democrats have succeeded in blocking both nominees put forward.

On July 30 Democrats once again filibustered appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada, who received enough votes for confirmation but not enough votes to stop debate and break the stall. With 60 votes needed to break the filibuster, Estrada received 55 votes. All 43 no votes came from Democrats and one independent.

On July 29 appeals court nominee Priscilla Owen also received enough votes for confirmation but not enough votes to stop the filibuster. Fifty-three senators voted for breaking the Owen filibuster, 43 senators (42 Democrats, one independent) voted against it.

It was the sixth time the GOP failed to break the Estrada filibuster, the third time it failed to break the Owen filibuster.

“Over the next four days, we’ll see just how far the minority in this body is willing to go to block well-qualified nominees and parrot the talking points of special interest groups,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, according to the AP.

Senators were scheduled to vote on appeals court nominees William Pryor July 31 and Carolyn Kuhl Aug. 1.

“In every case, these nominees fall outside the mainstream…” Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D.-S.D., said, according to the AP.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., said on the Senate floor July 30 that all four nominees deserved an up-or-down vote.

Americans “understand that we are not fulfilling our responsibility in this body without an up-or-down vote,” he said. “That is our job [and] that is our responsibility — it is advice and consent of judicial nominees sent to us by the president of the United States. That is being denied by the other side of the aisle [and] that’s unacceptable to us.”

Abortion-rights organizations have led the fight against several of President Bush’s nominees. In filibustering Estrada’s nomination, Democrats have called for him to be more forthcoming with his views on specific issues, including the right to abortion granted by the Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Owen’s opponents have focused their attacks on her opinions regarding a Texas law requiring parental notification for a minor before she may obtain an abortion. The 1999 law mandating parental notification contained a provision enabling a judge to grant an exception if he deems the underage girl mature and well-informed. In a majority of cases, Owen opposed a judicial bypass for minors requesting one.

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