- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved two of President Bush’s federal court nominees who were filibustered in the last Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, commended the panel for sending the nominees to the full Senate and referred to his plans for using the so-called ?nuclear option? to dislodge the eight Bush nominees still blocked by Democratic filibusters.

That option — now called the ?constitutional option? by Republicans — would be a rarely used parliamentary procedure that would bar filibusters against judicial nominees.

?Soon, all 100 senators will have to decide if these highly qualified candidates will get a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor,? Mr. Frist said.

Approved by the committee in 10-8 straight party-line votes yesterday were California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, each for a second time.

Justice Brown is nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and has waited 21 months for her confirmation. Justice Owen is nominated to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and has waited nearly four years for confirmation.

Democrats portray Justices Brown and Owen as extremist, pro-business judges who want to eliminate rights for women and minorities.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, accused Justice Brown of ?a deep-seated and disturbing hostility to civil rights, workers’ rights, consumer protection and government regulation.?

?Justice Brown has written opinions that would undermine civil rights,? he said. ?She held that the First Amendment prevents courts from enjoining racial slurs in the workplace, even when they create a hostile work environment in violation of job discrimination laws.?

Justice Brown sits on the California Supreme Court and was reaffirmed to the bench with 76 percent of the vote in 1998.

Justice Owen has been criticized in particular by Democrats and abortion-rights advocates for not allowing juveniles to circumvent a Texas law requiring minors to obtain parental consent before having an abortion.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, served with Justice Owen on the Texas Supreme Court and said she is ?among the finest legal minds of our time.?

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported, private polling by Republicans shows a low level of public support for the plan to stop Democrats from filibustering Mr. Bush’s nominees.

Citing officials who spoke yesterday on the condition of anonymity, AP reported that a survey taken for Senate Republicans showed 37 percent of respondents supported the Republican plan, while 51 percent opposed the plan.

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