Democrats Filibuster Pryor Nomination

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Texas judge Priscilla Owen (search) was first. District of Columbia lawyer Miguel Estrada (search) came next.

Now, Senate Republicans have lost their third attempt this week to push one of President Bush's judicial nominees through the Senate, with Democrats blocking conservative Alabama Attorney General William Pryor from the U.S. Appeals Court.

On Thursday, Pryor could not get the 60 votes needed from the 100-member Senate to win a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, leading Republicans to immediately denounce the Democratic blocks.

Pryor only got 53 votes in the Senate, which is split with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent senator. The only Democrats to vote for him were Senators Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Democrats say Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, rushed Pryor's confirmation vote before they could finish an investigation into his fund-raising activities for a GOP attorneys general group.

Pryor also is strongly anti-abortion and has criticized the Supreme Court's decision that a woman has a right to an abortion. But he has said he will follow the current law if confirmed for the regional courts, one step below the Supreme Court.

Democrats don't believe him. "Mr. Pryor's litigation position, public statements and his writings leave little doubt that he is committed to using the law, not simply to advance a conservative agenda, but a narrow and extremely ideological agenda," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Republicans say Democrats' opposition to Pryor demonstrates an anti-Catholic bias because of his anti-abortion stance. "This litmus test that is being applied is ultimately, is ultimately a religious one," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Democrats deny the charge. "These charges are false, they are baseless, they are offensive, and they are really beneath the dignity of a Senate committee tasked with making very important decisions on the future of a federal judiciary," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans lost a seventh filibuster vote in their fight to make Estrada the first Hispanic on the federal appeals court in the nation's capital, falling five short of the 60 needed to cut off debate. They also lost their third vote on Tuesday to put Owen on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

They will try on Friday to push California judge Carolyn Kuhl (search), who wants a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Republicans have been pressuring Democrats to confirm Bush's nominees.

"The American people deserve it," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "They understand that we are not fulfilling our responsibility in this body without an up-or-down vote. That is our job. That is our responsibility in advise-and-consent."

But the GOP have fallen short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move any of these nominations to confirmation.

Democrats also appear to be setting up another filibuster for Henry Saad (search), an Arab-American judge from Michigan whom Bush has nominated to the federal appeals court.

Saad would be the first Arab American judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which handles federal appeals from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Michigan has a large Arab population, but Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow oppose Saad because Republicans blocked their two nominees during the Clinton administration. They want the White House to compromise with them by setting up a bipartisan nomination commission, and "we oppose moving forward until that resolution is achieved," Levin said.

At least one Democrat has said their caucus will stand behind Levin and Stabenow if it comes to a fight on the Senate floor. "I have no doubt that the majority of our caucus will support the Michigan senators," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.