- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Senate Democrats yesterday blocked a vote on the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, the second of President Bush’s judicial nominees to be filibustered.In a 52-44 vote, Republicans fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster against Justice Owen’s nomination to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats already have a filibuster lodged against Washington lawyer Miguel A. Estrada, Mr. Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.”This is unjustified obstruction,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are denying the Senate its constitutional right to give advice and consent.”“This obstructionist tactic is an injustice and unfair to this good woman and unfaithful to the Senate’s own obligations,” Mr. Bush said in a statement.”Senate Democrats are now simultaneously filibustering two well-qualified nominees to the U.S. courts of appeals,” Mr. Bush added. “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to exercise its advice and consent function and hold up or down votes on all judicial nominees within a reasonable time after nomination.”Mr. Bush first nominated Justice Owen to the federal bench two years ago this month. Her nomination was killed in the Judiciary Committee controlled by 11 Democrats last year, though she had the support from a majority in the full Senate.The president renominated Justice Owen in January after the November elections gave Republicans control of the Senate. Her nomination passed out of the judiciary panel in March on a straight party-line vote.Democrats charge that Justice Owen is an extreme conservative unfit for the federal bench because of her rulings in favor of a Texas law requiring that parents be informed when their minor daughters seek an abortion. Democrats oppose Mr. Estrada in part because the Solicitor General’s Office won’t release internal legal writings Mr. Estrada penned while working there.Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, rose on the Senate floor yesterday and spoke about the importance of blocking Mr. Bush’s nominees.”I’m proud of this moment,” he said. “I think it’s so important.”Republicans found and released a long list of statements from Democrats who in the past argued against filibustering to prevent a vote on a nominee.”I find it simply baffling that a senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination,” Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said on Oct. 5, 1999, when President Bill Clinton was trying to get his nominees through.House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, went over to the Senate after yesterday’s vote to lend his support to his fellow Texan, Justice Owen.”The Democrats have imposed a glass ceiling over her,” said Mr. DeLay, who vowed to make a public issue out of what he called Democrats’ obstructionism.”We have a saying in Texas,” he said. “It’s ‘Don’t mess with Texas.’ “Democrats tried shedding the obstructionist label yesterday by voting 97-0 to confirm Edward Prado to the 5th Circuit. They also agreed to a vote on two more nominations that some Democrats oppose.But the stalemate is far from over, as Democrats have indicated they will filibuster more of Mr. Bush’s nominees whom they deem too conservative.Republicans continue to explore ways of getting Mr. Bush’s nominees through.One option that has been discussed is taking the matter to court for interpretation of the Constitution’s “advise and consent” clause, which is the root of the Senate’s authority in the nominating process.”The Constitution is clear,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican. It calls for a “majority to confirm” judicial nominees, not the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

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