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Plug GOP 'volcano'.

Byline: The Register-Guard

First, the raw numbers: Since President George W. Bush has been in office, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 168 of the president's nominations to the federal bench, while rejecting four.

Because of Democratic filibusters against four highly conservative judicial nominations by Bush, the Republican majority in the Senate is now threatening a "volcano" - a 30-hour talk-fest - on Wednesday in an effort to force Democrats to cave. It's a misguided public relations effort that could well backfire on the GOP.

The nominees whose confirmations have been blocked are California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, Alabama Attorney General William Pryor and California Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl. The Democrats have held up the nominations for political reasons, of course, but also because of some of the nominees' viewpoints.

For instance, Pryor, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 11th Circuit (Alabama, Florida and Georgia), has called the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision "the worst abomination" of constitutional law in U.S. history. The other nominees whose confirmations have been stalled by the Democrats have similarly non-mainstream views.

While the Republicans and the White House have accused Senate Democrats of everything from blatant partisan politics to sexism to racism (Brown is an African American), opponents of the Bush nominees are simply exercising their right to insist on a federal judiciary that comes to the bench without political agendas.

The nominations of this quartet were pushed by hard-right conservatives, and the Senate Democrats have stalled them via filibuster. To break a filibuster, the Republicans need 60 votes in the 100-member chamber, but with only 51 GOP members, it would take nine Democratic crossovers to break the filibuster. And that appears unlikely.

Nonetheless, the GOP is promising a marathon session on Wednesday that could last all night.

As Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, put it: "We're trying to increase the visibility of this problem by slowly escalating our tactics."

Or, as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., stated: "We're not doing this just for show. We're doing it to try to produce votes during that period of time (the 30-hour session), in the wee small hours if necessary, to get votes on these nominees."

Senate Republicans don't seem to grasp that their tactics could, if carried too far, undercut the Senate's fabled, much-maligned and much-praised filibuster procedure, in which one party can block a particular action by talking it to death. Over the years, that tactic has proved to be an important - and valued - part of the Senate's legislative process.

Brown, Owen, Pryor and Kuhl hold views that are well outside the American mainstream, and these nominees shouldn't be confirmed. The problem lies not with the Senate Democrats or the filibuster or confirmation processes. The problem lies with a president who has acceded to the wishes of his party's far-right ideologues.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Senate has confirmed most judicial nominations
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 11, 2003
Next Article:'A broken community'.

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