The Senate Judiciary Committee today on identical party-line votes approved two extreme right-wing Bush nominees to the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals, sending them to the full Senate. Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown were both blocked in the last Congressional term by Democratic filibusters. They were renominated by President Bush earlier this year, along with several other judicial nominees who were previously blocked by filibusters.
Senate Republicans are threatening to change the rules of the Senate to prevent filibusters against judicial nominees. Known as the “nuclear option,” the rule change would prevent 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. Senate Democrats held rallies today in Washington, DC and cities in Ohio, Indiana, Maine, Oregon, and Tennessee against the so-called “nuclear option.”
“A weak majority in the Senate, together with the President, are trying to not only stack the federal courts with right-wing, anti-women’s rights appointments, but also to silence a minority in the Senate, which actually represents, in state populations, more people than the majority in the Senate,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “For women this could be catastrophic, because we stand to lose the gains of the last 40 years, especially our right to reproductive choice and our hard-won protections against sex discrimination.” Feminist Majority activists joined Democratic Senators today in rallying against the “nuclear option.”
In President Bush’s first term in office, only 10 nominees to the appellate courts were blocked by Democratic filibusters – while 204 nominees to the federal courts were confirmed. The Feminist Majority is part of a broad coalition of women’s rights, civil rights, lesbian and gay rights, environmental, labor, and disability rights groups that has been urging Senate Democrats to filibuster right-wing, anti-women’s rights nominees to the federal courts.