The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines Thursday to send the controversial nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice and Baylor Law School graduate Priscilla Owen to the full Senate, setting the stage for a fight over filibuster rules.
President Bush wants to appoint Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but many Democrats and liberal groups have opposed the nomination, calling her an anti-abortion and pro-business judicial activist whose court rulings and opinions are overly influenced by her beliefs.
Owen, a 1977 Baylor Law School graduate, is one of 20 people whose judicial nominations were resubmitted to the Senate earlier this year.
Democrats filibustered ten of the President's judicial nominees during his first term, prompting Republican senators to consider changing the rules so nominees can't be blocked.
“After waiting four long years for an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate, her wait should come to an end,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, after the committee vote.
A minority of Senators “have gotten away with obstructing by exploiting the filibuster and denying Justice Owen a direct vote,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
“Now, unfortunately, we must take action to ensure President Bush’s nominees are getting the up-or-down vote they deserve.”
The fight over the President’s conservative court nominees has taken on religious overtones in recent weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is to offer a videotaped speech at a rally Sunday where conservative Christians will call for revising the Senate's filibuster rules.
A flier for the "Justice Sunday" event says, "the filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."
Frist is being pressed to call a vote on doing away with the ability of 41 senators to block votes on judicial nominees, but some Republican senators are wavering.
The battle over judicial appointments has been spurred by court decisions on issues important to Christian conservatives, such as abortion, gay marriage, school prayer and the Ten Commandments.
U.S. COURT OF APPEALS NOMINEES RESUBMITTED:
Terrence W. Boyle (4th Circuit) (first nominated May 9, 2001)
Priscilla Richman Owen (5th Circuit) (first nominated May 9, 2001)
David W. McKeague (6th Circuit) (first nominated November 8, 2001)
Susan Bieke Neilson (6th Circuit) (first nominated November 8, 2001)
Henry W. Saad (6th Circuit) (first nominated November 8, 2001)
Richard A. Griffin (6th Circuit) (first nominated June 26, 2002)
William H. Pryor (11th Circuit) (first nominated April 9, 2003)
William Gerry Myers, III (9th Circuit) (first nominated May 15, 2003)
Janice Rogers Brown (District of Columbia Circuit) (first nominated July 25, 2003)
Brett M. Kavanaugh (District of Columbia Circuit) (first nominated July 25, 2003)
William James Haynes, II (4th Circuit) (first nominated September 29, 2003)
Thomas B. Griffith (District of Columbia Circuit) (first nominated May 10, 2004)
U.S. DISTRICT COURT NOMINEES RESUBMITTED:
James C. Dever, III (Eastern District, North Carolina) (first nominated May 22, 2002)
Thomas L. Ludington (Eastern District, Michigan) (first nominated September 12, 2002)
Robert J. Conrad (Western District, North Carolina) (first nominated April 28, 2003)
Daniel P. Ryan (Eastern District, Michigan) (first nominated April 28, 2003)
Peter G. Sheridan (New Jersey) (first nominated November 5, 2003)
Paul A. Crotty (Southern District, New York) (first nominated September 7, 2004)
Sean F. Cox (Eastern District, Michigan) (first nominated September 10, 2004)
J. Michael Seabright (Hawaii) (first nominated September 15, 2004)