by Steven Ertelt
April 6, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The battle over President Bush’s pro-life judicial picks will begin anew on Thursday as the Senate Judiciary Committee decides whether or not to approve a federal appeals court judge previously held up by a Democratic filibuster. Senators may also soon determine if they will change Senate rules on filibustering judicial nominees.
The judicial committee will consider the nomination for Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen to a federal appeals court. Owen impressed pro-life advocates with her consistent votes to uphold Texas’ parental notification on abortion law.
Owen and nearly a dozen other pro-life judicial picks were held up by abortion advocates in the Senate and the same filibusters could be used to block a Supreme Court nominee once President Bush has the chance to pick one.
Led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate Republicans are considering changing the rules to lower the number of votes needed to stop filibusters from a hard to find 60 to a more manageable 50.
Pro-life groups support the idea.
"This may very well determine the fate of President Bush’s nominations to future vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the future makeup of the powerful federal appeals courts," National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson said.
A group of pro-abortion and moderate Republican senators may hold up any vote to change the rules.
GOP Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, John Warner of Virginia, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Richard Lugar of Indiana have either said they oppose changing the rules or have not indicated if they would support such a move.
Another senator who won’t stake out a position is Alaska Republican Ted Stevens, who is pro-life. "I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it," he told the Associated Press about the proposal.
Even some Republicans who back the rules change, like New Mexico’s Pete Domenici, say they worry it would be used against them in the future.
Observers acknowledge the outcome of the filibuster rules depends on the small group of Republicans, some of who back abortion.
"The issue will be decided by the handful of Republican senators who currently are leaning against the majority rule reform, or who are undecided," Johnson explained.
However, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott of Mississippi support the rules change and believe they can help Frist find 50 votes to do it.
If Republicans change the rules, Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has already promised to hold up legislation.
Frist told media outlets earlier this week that he’s hoping to reach a deal with Reid on judicial nominees.
ACTION: Contact the Senate at 202-224-3121 and ask your senators to support up or down votes on all judicial nominees.