Led by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), Democrats vowed to filibuster President Bush’s renomination of anti-women, anti-civil rights Judge Charles Pickering to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. With 41 votes needed to sustain a filibuster and block the nomination from coming to a vote, the move has already received backing by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member and committee member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) – among others. “If they want to force us to filibuster and have that debate on the floor of the United States Senate, so be it,” Schumer told the New York Times. “We’re ready.”
Pickering, a judge from Mississippi who was originally nominated last year as a favor to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), was defeated in a party line vote of the then Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Pickering has a long history of voting against women. As a state Senator, Pickering supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and chaired the subcommittee of the National Republican Party that in 1976 approved a plank calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to make abortion illegal. Pickering has opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and as a district court judge, criticized remedies provided by the Voting Rights Act to redress discrimination against African-American voters. Despite speculation that Pickering would not be renominated following Lott’s ouster from the Senate leadership position due to racist remarks, Bush brought forward his name again Tuesday – along with Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, known for her emphatic views against abortion rights, and 29 others.
In what was seen as an attempt to stem the tide of accusations of racial insensitivity against their party, Republicans agreed at the last minute yesterday to allow the appointment of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) to the House Ways and Means Committee – she became the first African-American woman to serve on what is deemed a coveted committee. Originally, House Republicans had announced a plan to shrink the committee by one seat for each party, which would have left Jones off the committee. However, after Democrats contested the decision, Republicans agreed to let Jones have her seat.