Senate Panel Approves Owen Nomination

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a party line 10-9 vote Thursday the nomination of Priscilla Owen to be a judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice, was given a second chance for a full Senate vote after a Democrat-controlled panel rejected the nomination last year. But considering how Democrats have blocked the nomination of Miguel Estrada, another Bush nominee, Owen could still face strong opposition.

"This committee will now begin setting straight the mistake it made by halting this nomination in committee last fall," Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said two weeks ago. The GOP won control of the Senate -- and the committee -- in last year's election.

Democrats contended Owen is an anti-abortion and pro-business judicial activist whose opinions and rulings are overly influenced by her personal beliefs. Owen says she would be a fair and impartial judge if confirmed by the Senate.

"I judge cases by what is right," said Owen, who appeared at her second Judiciary Committee hearing two weeks ago, a replay of one she had when Democrats ran the panel. "I do not judge cases by what is politically correct. I apply the law, and the law has to be predictable and it has to be fair and that's what I do."

Liberal groups said Owens still poses a danger.

"Owen is a far-right judicial activist who tries to remake the law to reach an outcome that is often hostile to the rights and interests of individuals," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.

But John Nowacki, Director of Legal Policy at the Free Congress Foundation, praised the committee for forwarding the nomination.

"There is no excuse for what she endured the first time around, especially given her background as a fair judge committed to following the law. The Senate now has the opportunity to fairly evaluate her record and reject the smear campaign waged by interest groups on the far left."

The Democrats have tried to hold up Senate floor votes or committee action on a number of other nominees whom they consider objectionable.

Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hit its 50th day of filibuster on Wednesday, and nominations have been stacking up behind his.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.