Senate Leaders Agree to Fast-Track Confirmations

After months of arguing, the Senate will try to confirm as many as four of President Bush's nominations to the U.S. Appeals Court in the next week or so, including California judge Janice Rogers Brown (search) and former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor (search).

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced agreements on Monday to move forward on those two as well as the nominations of Richard Griffin (search) and David McKeague (search) for the appeals court in Cincinnati.

"We should have a very positive week on judges," Frist said.

Brown's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will be first, with a test vote scheduled for noon Tuesday. Frist said he expects Brown to get the support she needs in that vote, and a confirmation vote will follow.

A test vote on Pryor's candidacy for the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta will follow Brown's confirmation vote, he said.

Frist and Reid also said they had agreed to move forward on Griffin and McKeague, who were approved by the Judiciary Committee just before the Senate left for its Memorial Day recess.

"If we get through this block of judges here, the four that the leader talked about, we should be in pretty good shape to move on to other things," Reid said.

If the Senate confirms all four of those nominees, it will have taken care of almost all of the judges involved in the centrist agreement that averted a showdown over judicial filibusters.

To avert a partisan showdown, seven Democrats and seven Republicans signed a pact last month pledging not to filibuster judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. At the same time, they agreed to oppose attempts by GOP leaders to change filibuster procedures.

The 14 signers, while a small minority of the Senate, hold enough leverage to stop future Democratic filibusters or block any attempt to impose new procedures to end judicial filibusters.

As part of that agreement, Democrats also agreed not to filibuster Brown, Pryor and Priscilla Owen, who was sworn in as a federal judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday. Apart from the judicial nominees named in the agreement, Reid said Democrats also would clear the way for votes on Michigan nominees McKeague, Griffin and Susan Neilson (search). The Judiciary Committee has not yet approved Neilson, with senators saying she has been ill.

Democrats had blocked Griffin and McKeague at the request of Michigan's two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow — who argued that Republicans had blocked the nominations of President Clinton's nominees to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. But they agreed not to hold up the nominations anymore as part of the discussion over the use of judicial filibusters.

Brown and Pryor's opponents are still trying to amass support from senators to block their confirmations, although their confirmation is almost assured under the centrist agreement.

"Janice Rogers Brown is Plan B, a stealthy back up strategy for the forces who are bent on undoing Social Security, Medicaid, long-term care and other essential safety net guarantees on which older Americans depend," said Simon Lazarus, spokesman for the National Senior Citizens' Law Center.