The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved by a 10-9 partly-line vote the nomination of anti-women Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Owen, who was defeated in committee last session because of her poor record on women’s and civil rights, was re-nominated by the Bush administration as part of an ongoing campaign to stack the nation’s courts with far-right judges. Owen now faces a full Senate vote.
Following the committee vote, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) told the New York Times that Owen “would be a good candidate for a filibuster.” Senate Democrats are currently leading a filibuster against another of Bush’s right-wing judicial nominees, Miguel Estrada, who has been nominated to serve on the DC Court of Appeals. Democrats say the filibuster will only end when Estrada reveals his views on critical issues such as abortion and civil rights. Many Senate Democrats have argued that his refusal to answer questions about his views impedes the Senate from having the information necessary to carry out its constitutional “advise-and-consent” duties in confirming presidential appointments. The filibuster has lasted for almost two months, with Democrats defeating three cloture votes (votes to close debate). Republicans plan another cloture vote for early next week, and hinted of a “nuclear” plan to advance Bush’s court-stacking plan, according to the Washington Times.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Carolyn Kuhl, a Bush nominee the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose record is clearly anti-women’s rights. As a member of the Reagan administration’s Department of Justice, Kuhl coauthored an amicus brief in the case of Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urging full-scale rejection of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion rights in this country. She also filed an amicus. brief on behalf of the American Academy of Medical Ethics in support of the gag rule–the US policy that prevents clinics receiving US funds from providing, counseling, or promoting abortion, even if these activities are funded with separate monies. Kuhl also has argued for a narrower definition of sexual harassment.
The Feminist Majority joins a wide variety of women’s rights, civil rights, consumer rights, environmental, labor and other progressive groups in opposing the confirmations of Owen, Estrada, and Kuhl.