- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday said Democrats will filibuster Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen's nomination to the federal bench while simultaneously maintaining the ongoing filibuster against D.C. lawyer Miguel Estrada.
"We think that her record is so egregious that we have no choice but to filibuster, and that's what the caucus will do," the South Dakota Democrat said.
Republicans last night filed a cloture motion to end the debate on Justice Owen and vote on her confirmation tomorrow.
Though Justice Owen is widely thought to have the backing of a simple majority, her nomination lacks the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.
The Democratic announcement of their filibuster came just hours after another President Bush nominee, Jeffrey S. Sutton of Ohio, was narrowly confirmed largely along party lines to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Republicans were joined by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Bill Nelson of Florida in approving Mr. Sutton on a 52-41 vote.
Mr. Daschle's vow to block from a full Senate vote Justice Owen's nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is another indication that "the judicial confirmation process is broken," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
Mr. Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, served on the Texas Supreme Court for three years with Justice Owen.
Next month will mark the second anniversary of Mr. Bush's nominations of Justice Owen, Mr. Sutton and Mr. Estrada to the federal courts.
Mr. Cornyn will mark the occasion next week by holding a hearing entitled "Judicial Nominations, Filibusters and the Constitution: When a majority is denied its right to consent" to evaluate why five of the 11 people Mr. Bush nominated to the federal courts in May 2001 still haven't been confirmed.
"The U.S. Senate needs a fresh start," Mr. Cornyn said. "The process has become increasingly bitter and destructive and does a terrible disservice to presidents, senators, nominees and the American people."
In a statement released by the White House, President Bush praised the confirmation of Mr. Sutton and scolded Senate Democrats for blocking Mr. Estrada and Justice Owen.
"The delays in the Senate confirmation process deter good people from seeking to serve on the bench and create a vacancy crisis in the federal courts that harms the American people," Mr. Bush said.
"I call on the Senate to perform its constitutional responsibility to hold timely up-or-down votes on all judicial nominees, no matter who is president or which party controls the Senate."
In an effort to show that Democrats are not knee-jerk obstructionists as painted by Republicans, Mr. Daschle recommended that the Senate take up the nomination of another judge, one better liked by Democrats.
Oddly, Mr. Estrada whose nomination is being filibustered enjoys more support in the Senate than Mr. Sutton did.
For instance, Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, supports Mr. Estrada. Originally, Mr. Breaux voted to confirm Mr. Sutton yesterday, but switched his vote a few minutes later after consulting with his home state colleague, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.
Like other Democrats, Mr. Breaux thinks Mr. Sutton has undermined legal protections for the disabled, according to his office. His office did not elaborate on why Mr. Breaux originally voted in favor of Mr. Sutton.

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