Senate Ends 2nd Filibuster of a Nominee

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Times Staff Writer

The Senate ended the filibuster of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown on Tuesday when 10 Democrats crossed party lines and voted to close debate on her nomination to the federal bench, clearing the way for a confirmation vote today.

The motion passed 65 to 32; at least 60 votes were needed to end the filibuster.

With Republicans holding 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, Brown was expected to easily win the 51 votes needed for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Many in the legal profession view that court as the second most powerful in the nation because it considers many cases involving the government and its regulatory authority. The court also is seen as a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Brown, 56, was one of 10 appellate court nominees whom Democrats blocked from confirmation votes during Bush’s first term, arguing that they were too conservative. She was one of seven whose nominations the president resubmitted earlier this year.

The Senate had seemed headed for a battle over the right of Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees until a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement in late May to break the impasse.

Under the accord, seven Republicans agreed to oppose any effort to ban the filibuster for judicial nominees, while seven Democrats agreed to oppose such filibusters except under “extraordinary circumstances.”

The agreement led to the confirmation last month of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Brown is the second of Bush’s controversial nominees to gain a confirmation vote through the deal.

During Tuesday’s debate, Democrats continued to press their case against Brown, describing her as having views that were out of the mainstream. They accused her of infusing her court decisions with conservative ideology and opposing most forms of government regulation.


“I would hope that Republican senators would look at Janice Rogers Brown for what she really is,” Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters. “I don’t know if I’ve ever known a more activist member of the judiciary, anyplace.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the Republicans who helped broker the filibuster deal, said Brown “will be an ideal conservative judge who follows the law and does not legislate from the bench.”

Seven of the 10 Democrats who voted to end debate on Brown also were part of the filibuster deal: Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

The three other centrist Democrats who supported ending debate on Brown were Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida.

California’s two senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, voted against ending debate and were expected to vote against Brown’s confirmation.

Three more of Bush’s contested nominees are on the Senate docket for action this week: Alabama Atty. Gen. William H. Pryor Jr., nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and Richard A. Griffin and David W. McKeague, both from Michigan and both nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.


Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he expected a confirmation vote on Pryor and the two Michigan judges Thursday.

The fate of two other appellate court nominees who have been opposed by Democrats -- William G. Myers III and Henry W. Saad -- was not addressed by the compromise on the filibuster and remains uncertain.