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Democrats Block 2nd Bush Court Nominee

From Reuters

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked action on President Bush’s nomination of Priscilla Owen to a federal court, making her the second of Bush’s judicial nominees to face possible defeat.

The Republican-led Senate voted, 52 to 44, eight short of the needed 60, to end a three-day debate on Owen and move to a confirmation vote. Republicans vowed to try again, but Democrats promised that the results would be the same.

Democrats have managed to sustain a similar procedural hurdle, known as a filibuster, for more than two months against Miguel Estrada, a Washington lawyer who Bush nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Bush nominated Owen to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

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Bush and fellow Republicans say both nominees received the highest rating of the American Bar Assn. and should be confirmed.

But Democrats charge they are part of Bush’s effort to pack the courts with right-wing extremists who cannot be trusted on such matters as civil rights, labor rights and women’s rights.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican, rejected the charges, saying, “It’s time to stop smearing these judges.”

Hatch said Owen was a “well-qualified, mainstream jurist” who enjoyed broad bipartisan support in her home state. He also noted that Owen had vowed to follow the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion as “settled law.”

Many of Owen’s opponents charged that as a Texas judge she had sought to put her own views above the law.

“Her record on the Texas Supreme Court is one of activism, unfairness and hostility to fundamental rights,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Despite the setback on Owen, Bush made progress on other judicial fronts Thursday as Republicans cranked up efforts to get his nominees confirmed.

On a 97-0 vote, the Senate confirmed Bush’s bid to elevate Edward Prado, a U.S. district judge in San Antonio, to the same U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that Bush wants Owen on.

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Democrats and Republicans also agreed Thursday to hold confirmation votes next week on Bush’s nominations of John Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Deborah Cook to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.


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