WASHINGTON (BP)–Texas Judge Priscilla Owen became the second judicial nominee this year to be filibustered by Senate Democrats May 1.
The nominee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans received a majority of votes but not enough to pass a “cloture” vote — the technical term for ending a filibuster and forcing a vote on confirmation. The vote was 52-44 in favor of cloture, eight shy of the necessary 60.
Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia were the lone Democrats voting in Owen’s favor.
Democrats already have filibustered successfully the nomination of Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada, a nominee to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In four previous votes to end the filibuster he has received a majority of votes but has fallen short of 60, getting 55 each time.
It is the first time that two official judicial filibusters have taken place at the same time, the Associated Press reported.
Republican leaders said May 1 they will not pull the nominations and will continue to try and stop the filibuster.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the filibustering tactics do not bode well for future Senate bodies.
“This is breeding an atmosphere in the Senate which is going to lead to bitterness and recrimination on both sides that will damage the nomination process seriously,” Land told Baptist Press May 1. “The irresponsibility of [Minority Leader] Tom Daschle and the Democratic leadership in the Senate is beyond comprehension.”
Land pointed out that if Owen and Estrada are given an up-or-down vote “they will both be confirmed as judges.”
“The situation we are facing,” Land said, “is one in which a radical leadership of the Democratic minority in the Senate is seeking to impose a new unprecedented and unconstitutional requirement for federal judgeships — namely that you have to have a super majority of 60 votes, not the constitutional 51, in order to be confirmed as a federal judge if they choose to invoke a filibuster.”
Democrats also are subverting “the spoken will of the people,” Land said, noting that voters gave President Bush “an unprecedented mid-term gain in the Senate and the House” in 2002.
Instead of “bowing to the clearly expressed will of the people,” Land said, the Democracts have “carried their obstructionist tactics to new lows.”
Democrats have cited Owen’s rulings on abortion in their opposition to her nomination. A Texas law requiring parental notification for teens seeking an abortion allowed judges to grant exemptions if they thought the girl was well-informed. In most cases, Owen denied the minor’s request.
Both Owen and Estrada were originally nominated by President Bush May 9, 2001.
“They have been waiting almost two years for a vote,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said May 1 before the vote. “Both were rated ‘well-qualified’ by the American Bar Association. That is the highest possible rating that the American Bar Association gives. It is also, according to Democrats, the gold standard that they would use to judge whether nominees were qualified.”
Fleischer added that the “Constitution is clear — a majority is required to confirm judicial nominees. A minority of Senate Democrats are effectively changing the law with their obstructionist tactics.”
Democrat senators said they will continue to filibuster the Owen and Estrada nominations and may filibuster other nominees who have yet to make it to the Senate floor.
“We are here because the president has picked another fight with the United States Senate by renominating a divisive and controversial activist to another circuit court, and that’s regrettable,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., said, according to the Associated Press.