Senate Heads Toward Owen Confirmation, Deal Still Debated

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Heads Toward Owen Confirmation, Deal Still Debated Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 25, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The U.S. Senate is heading towards confirming Texas Supreme Court judge Priscilla Owen, who is backed by pro-life groups for a spot on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, the terms of the recent filibuster deal are still under scrutiny.

After voting 81-18 to end debate on Owen’s nomination, the Senate is expected to confirm her appointment today to the appeals court.

Abortion advocates strongly oppose her nomination because of her numerous decisions against allowing teenagers in Texas to bypass the parental notification law there which requires abortion facilities to tell parents when their minor teenage daughters are considering an abortion.

"Planned Parenthood strongly opposes Owen’s nomination," the national abortion business said in a last-minute alert to its members Wednesday morning. The group urged calls and faxes to members of the Senate.

Meanwhile, senators continued to debate the meaning and impact of a deal brokered Monday night preventing a showdown on changing the Senate’s filibuster rules.

The main debate centers on the definition of "extraordinary circumstances," the only situation in which seven Democrats said they would support a filibuster. Pro-life groups worry any Supreme Court nominee could fit under such a definition.

"The terms ‘extraordinary circumstances’ do not lend themselves to any easy interpretation," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter admitted Tuesday. "But when the Democratic leader observes that means ‘occasional’ and ‘very infrequent,’ that is very reassuring."

But NARAL, a leading abortion advocacy group, issued a statement urging senators to make "extraordinary circumstances" cover any nominee who opposes the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized unlimited abortion or those who refuse to share their position on the Supreme Court case.

Those involved in the deal were vague when asked to explain their views on the term.

Asked what he meant by the phrase, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, replied: "It’s like child pornography, my friend. You know it when you see it."

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, told the Washington Times, "I want judges to be fair, impartial and will uphold the law."

Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, said the group of 14 senators involved in the deal purposefully left it undefined.

"If an individual senator believes in the future that a filibuster is taking place under something that’s not extraordinary circumstances, we of course reserve the right to do what we could have done tomorrow which is to cast a ‘yes’ vote for the constitutional option," he said.