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April 22, 2005
Commitee Approves Owens, Brown; Filibuster Fight (Almost) Ready

The GOP finally addressed the issue of judicial nominations yesterday by getting two of President Bush's nominees out of commitee and onto the Senate schedule for full confirmation. Democrats, who filibustered both Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown in the last session of Congress, plan on doing so again -- and will force the Republicans to change the filibuster rule after more than three months of dawdling:

Moving the Senate closer to a historic confrontation, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee yesterday endorsed two of President Bush's most controversial nominees to federal appellate court, and Democrats vowed once again to use the filibuster to block their confirmation.

The committee, voting 10 to 8 along party lines, endorsed Janice Rogers Brown of California for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Priscilla Richman Owen of Texas for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Both were nominated, endorsed by the Judiciary Committee and ultimately blocked by the Democrats in Bush's first term, along with eight other appeals court nominees.

The big question, of course, is whether Frist can still round up 50 votes for his rule change. That's what he needs to get future nominations to get through the Senate, especially the inevitable Supreme Court nominations that everyone expects to start once the nomination process is secured. At least Rehnquist will assuredly retire at the end of this SCOTUS session, as ill as he's been, and other justices have hinted that they'd like to leave if their replacements can be made without a complete political meltdown.

Three months ago, Frist had these votes locked up, fresh off a resounding win in November 2004 and the eight-seat swing to the GOP it produced in the Senate. The Senate Democrats had started the session badly, enhancing their reputation as radical loonies as they embarassed themselves by challenging Ohio's electors for no good reason except to bitch about losing the election and to complain about supposed voting irregularities in cities and precincts controlled by Democrats. After the ever-courageous Mark Dayton made a rare public appearance in DC to blow all precedents of courtesy and call Condoleezza Rice a liar during a Senate debate on her nomination, the American electorate understood that Democrats planned on simple-minded obstructionism for its own sake and for a few cheap headlines.

A funny thing happened on the way to restoring the Constitutional process, however; the GOP sat on the ball, a tactic well known by Minnesota Vikings fans, and one that practically guarantees a loss. This allowed the media to get back into the game, pushing the GOP around the field by constantly referring to their efforts as "radical", "extremist", and their nominees as "out of the mainstream" -- even though Brown, for one, overwhelmingly won re-election to her Supreme Court post in California, hardly a bastion of conservative electors. Now the more moderate Republicans in the caucus have lost their intestinal fortitude for standing up for due process and the reputations of their nominees, or at least they had up to now.

Unfortunately, this vote will not take place now. The GOP had to schedule more pressing business before the recess in the first week of May. The emergency? The new highway bill. You all recall when we fought to expand the GOP majority in the Senate to get that highway bill passed, right? That legislation inspired all of us to donate money that could have gone to family vacations and to assist others in our community to the NRSC instead in 2002 and 2004 ... right?

That's what Frist and the GOP leadership expects you to believe now, apparently.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 22, 2005 6:13 AM

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