WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked Alabama Attorney General William Pryor (search) from a U.S. Appeals Court seat for a second time as Republicans, meanwhile, moved California judge Janice Rogers Brown (search) toward what is likely to be the same fate in the closely divided Senate.
Pryor again failed to get the 60 votes needed from the 100-member chamber to break a filibuster of his nomination to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) in Atlanta. His nomination was first filibustered by Democrats in July.
Republicans say liberal groups have unfairly painted Pryor as an extremist from the far right.
"They call him an extreme ideologue, a crusader to push the law far to the right," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. "Anybody who knows him and knows the circumstances under which he has operated knows the courage he has shown, knows that these charges are just bogus."
Brown, a California judge seeking a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is sure to be next, Republicans said.
"Democrats are virtually certain to filibuster Janice Rogers Brown," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after his committee pushed her nomination to the Senate floor on a 10-9 vote Thursday.
All nine of the committee's Democrats voted against Brown, who would become the second black woman on the D.C. appeals court. That usually indicates that they will attempt to filibuster the nomination on the Senate floor.
The Senate has approved 168 federal trial and appeals judges for President Bush, but Democrats are filibustering four Appeals Court nominees: Pryor, Texas judge Priscilla Owen, Mississippi judge Charles Pickering and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada. Estrada dropped his nomination after Republicans failed to break the filibuster.
Pryor only got 51 votes in the Senate, which has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent senator. The only Democrats to vote for Pryor on Thursday were Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Pryor is an ardent opponent of abortion rights for women and has criticized the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade (search) decision. But he has said he will follow the current law if confirmed.
Democrats don't believe him. "His views are at the extreme of legal thinking," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "The people of the Eleventh Circuit deserve a nominee who will follow the rules of law, and not use the federal bench to advance his own extreme ideology."
Brown, a California Supreme Court justice, also supports limits on abortion rights and corporate liability and opposes affirmative action. Democrats have accused her of being a conservative judicial activist who ignores the law in favor of her own political views.
Republicans say the opposition has more to do with the fact she is a conservative black woman who might one day rise to the Supreme Court.
"When well-qualified judicial nominees face obstruction for specious claims, it's an ominous sign of things to come," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.