California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-9 party-line vote Thursday, setting the stage for another Democratic filibuster of one of President Bush's nominees to the U.S. appellate courts.
Republicans hailed Brown's life as an American success story. Brown was born a sharecropper's daughter in the segregated South, they noted, and rose to prominence after working her way through law school in California. She also speaks with a "golden eloquence" about basic rights, such as the right to own property, said Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho).
"Private property should be sacred in our society," he said. "I believe that's what the justice was saying." He was referring to a series of speeches that Brown gave in which she denounced government as "insatiable" and said the federal courts had succumbed to "the triumph of our own socialist revolution" in 1937 by upholding the New Deal.
Democrats took turns lambasting Brown as too extreme to deserve a lifetime seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
"It's hard for me to imagine a judge with such hostility to government sitting on that court," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), since its cases typically involve challenges to government regulations on the environment, workers' rights and anti-trust enforcement. "Her views are so starkly out of the mainstream of American thought," Feinstein said.
In the last year, Feinstein's stand on judges has been a key indicator whether Senate Democrats will seek to block a Bush nominee. Feinstein broke ranks with most of the Democrats and voted in favor of Bush nominee Jeffrey Sutton of Ohio. Sutton was subsequently confirmed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. But when Feinstein has joined all her fellow Democrats in opposing a Bush nominee in the committee, the Democrats have blocked a final vote on the Senate floor.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the committee, told reporters after Thursday's vote that Democrats "are virtually certain to filibuster" Brown's nomination in the full Senate.
Also Thursday, Republicans failed to break a Democratic filibuster of Alabama Atty. Gen. William H. Pryor Jr. Only 51 senators voted to end the debate on his nomination, well short of the needed 60.
So far, 168 of Bush's judicial nominees have been confirmed, giving him a better record than most recent presidents at this point in his term.
However, the Democrats have targeted Bush's candidates who they say are too conservative. So far, four have been blocked: Washington lawyer Miguel A. Estrada, who withdrew his nomination; Mississippi Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr.; Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen and Pryor. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl is also awaiting a final vote in the Senate.