Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) opened debate today on Priscilla Owen, an extreme right-wing, anti-women’s rights judicial nominee. This is the first step in a possible chain of events that could lead to a vote on the so-called “nuclear option.” To change the Senate rules requires a two-thirds vote. The nuclear option, however, would change the Senate filibuster rules by only a simple majority vote. The nuclear option would ban filibusters on judicial nominees—including Supreme Court nominees—by requiring only a simple 51-vote majority to close debate and move to a vote on the judges. Present rules require 60 votes to close the debate.
“I can only conclude that the true purpose of the nuclear option is not to win confirmation of some or all of the small handful of nominees Democrats filibustered last year,” said Reid on the Senate floor yesterday. “Rather, the goal of the Republican leadership and their allies in the White House is to pave the way for a Supreme Court nominee who would only need 50 votes for confirmation rather than 60. They don’t want consensus, they want confrontation.”
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) held a press conference in the Capitol today opposing the nuclear option, joined by leading Congresswomen such as Nita Lowey (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Lois Capps (D-CA). Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined these women leaders in Congress, along with other women’s and reproductive rights leaders such as Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women; Kate Michelman, past president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood; Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center; and Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.
The press conference emphasized the anti-women’s rights records of the contentious Bush judicial nominees, including Owen. Currently a justice on Texas’ Supreme Court, Owen has consistently shown herself to be hostile to women’s rights and workers’ rights . In every abortion-related opinion on the Texas Supreme court, Owen has voted against abortion rights.