WASHINGTON (BP)–In a recess appointment, President Bush placed William Pryor on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Feb. 20.
Pryor — Alabama’s attorney general and one of six Bush appeals court nominees filibustered by Senate Democrats — will serve until January 2005, when the next Congress is sworn in. Until then, Pryor’s appointment will not have to be confirmed.
Pryor, Charles Pickering — who was placed by Bush on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by recess appointment Jan. 16 — and the other four nominees all have received enough votes for confirmation but not the 60 votes needed to overcome “the unprecedented obstructionist tactics,” as Bush put it, of Democratic filibusters.
Bush issued a three-paragraph statement Feb. 20 concerning his recess appointment of Pryor, a Catholic layman who has been Alabama’s attorney general since 1997.
The president said Pryor “has had a distinguished career as a public servant and practicing attorney. His impressive record demonstrates his devotion to the rule of law and to treating all people equally under the law. He has received widespread bipartisan support from those who know him and know his record. I am proud to name this leading American lawyer to the appellate bench.”
Bush noted that Pryor was “nominated more than 10 months ago, but still has not received an up-or-down vote in the Senate. A bipartisan majority of Senators supports his confirmation. If Attorney General Pryor were given a vote on the floor of the Senate, he would be confirmed. But a minority of Democratic Senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified nominees from receiving up-or-down votes. Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate’s constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system.”
Bush stated that Pryor “will fill a seat on the Eleventh Circuit that has been designated a judicial emergency. He will perform a valuable service on a court that needs more judges to do its work with the efficiency the American people deserve and expect.”
Among Senate Republicans, John Cornyn of Texas called the recess appointment “a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster,” Reuters reported.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the move.
“The President has divided the American people and the Senate with his controversial judicial nominees, and none is more controversial than Mr. Pryor,” Leahy said in a statement. “Judicial activists like Mr. Pryor are committed to an ideological agenda that puts corporate interests over the public’s interests and that would roll back the hard-won rights of consumers, minorities, women, and Americans with disabilities.”
Pryor, who is pro-life, was opposed by many liberal activist groups, including abortion rights organizations.
Bush reiterated his call on Senate Democrats to give all of his nominees an up-or-down vote.
“Again I call on those in the Senate who are playing politics with the American judicial system to stop so that my nominees receive the up-or-down votes they deserve,” he said.