WASHINGTON – Stymied by the Miguel Estrada filibuster, Senate Republicans on Monday moved to another White House judicial nominee, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen.
"I hope we don't have a filibuster on this case, like we are with Miguel Estrada," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republicans want a quick confirmation vote on Owen, who is nominated for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
But many Democrats and liberal groups oppose Owen, who was nominated by President Bush. Democrats have called her an anti-abortion and pro-business judicial activist whose opinions and rulings are overly influenced by her personal beliefs but have not said whether they would filibuster to block Owen's confirmation.
Democrats voted her nomination down in committee last year when they controlled the Senate, but the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination last month.
Republicans brought Owen's nomination to the full Senate on Monday and expect to talk about it on-and-off for most of the week. The Senate goes home for its Easter break on Friday.
"I'm hopeful that my colleagues will not stand in the way of an up-or-down vote on her nomination," said GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "Under any fair standard, she deserves confirmation, not continued obstruction and delay."
But one of Owen's most vocal opponents, NARAL Pro-Choice America, warned Democrats on Monday they would be watching the Owen vote closely and would use votes for or against the Texas judge in their future scorecards and campaign literature.
"Owen's nomination is critical to anti-choice activists' relentless effort to pack the courts with conservative ideologues, and this is precisely why it must be stopped," said Kate Michelman, the group's president.
Republicans contend that Democrats have distorted Owen's judicial record and decisions, and Owen said that she would be a fair and impartial judge if confirmed by the Senate.
"As she has done throughout this process, Justice Owen consistently demonstrated her intelligence, her legal acumen and her respect for the law," Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Monday.
Democrats already are blocking a final vote on another Bush judicial nominee they consider objectionable.
That Democratic filibuster against Miguel Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has lasted for more than two months. Only two appeals court nominees have been approved since the Estrada filibuster started.
"I hope this body will not descend into a pattern of filibustering nominees for the Courts of Appeals," Sessions said.