WASHINGTON (Talon News) — On Friday, President Bush announced that he was exercising his constitutional authority to appoint another of the half dozen judicial nominees being filibustered by the Democratic minority in the Senate. Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr. was named to fill a vacancy on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The nomination had languished for nearly a year as the result of what Bush called “unprecedented obstructionist tactics” to prevent an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
Bush repeated his call for senators to stop “playing politics with the American judicial system.”
“Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate’s constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system,” the president added.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed with Bush’s action as well as his characterization of the Democrat’s tactics.
Cornyn said, “This is a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster.”
Cornyn chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution and is the only former judge on the Judiciary Committee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) expressed what many conservatives are hoping for when he said, “President Bush is showing that he will use all the power available to him to appoint highly qualified judges.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said that Pryor “is a man of integrity committed to the rule of law, not making law from the bench.”
“I am confident he will impartially interpret the law and uphold justice,” Frist added.
His counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), architect of the Democratic filibusters, did not respond to a request from Talon News for comment. Daschle faces a tough reelection campaign where obstruction of the president’s agenda is a key issue.
Daschle’s Democratic colleagues expressed their opposition to the appointment.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, “Regularly circumventing the advise and consent process is not the way to change the tone in Washington.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), another member of the Judiciary Committee, complained that Bush’s action was “a flagrant abuse of presidential power.”
“This is an outrageous appointment of a nominee who has questionable commitment to the authority of the Supreme Court and the rule of law,” Kennedy said, referring to Pryor’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which in effect created a constitutional right to abortion.
Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has indicated that as president he would only appoint judges to the U.S. Supreme Court who support Roe v. Wade.
“I don’t want to get into an argument about litmus tests,” Kerry said recently. “The focus is on the constitutional right that Roe established in America. I want jurists to agree, who swear to uphold the Constitution. I want jurists who understand the Constitution that way.”
Another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), said Pryor “has a long record of vigorous efforts to deny Americans’ basic rights under our laws.”
“This is one more example of why we need a new president,” Edwards said.
The appointment sparked praise and criticism from groups heavily invested in issues affected by various court rulings.
Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, was pleased and issued a statement that said, “A minority of senators are obstructing several of President Bush’s judicial nominees at the behest of extreme left-wing special interests … enough is enough.”
David Almasi, Executive Director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said, “It’s regrettable that the President was forced to resort to a recess appointment to put Bill Pryor on the federal bench, but the liberal obstructionists have left him with no other choice at this point in time.”
Mychal Massie, a member of the African-American leadership network Project 21, said, “I applaud the president’s recess appointment of William Pryor and his commitment to appoint constructionist jurists to the courts.”
Lawrence Cirignano of Catholic Vote said, “President Bush corrected a grave injustice by bypassing the Senate minority and allowing the will of the majority to succeed. The senators who were blocking this nomination based on William Pryor’s strongly held religious beliefs is contemptible.”
Religious groups had charged that Pryor was the victim of discrimination because of his traditional Catholic views against abortion.
People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group issued a statement that said, “Apparently White House political strategists have decided that the president needs to shore up his disgruntled political base, and that an in-your-face appointment of a right-wing ideologue to the federal bench will help rally the troops.”
The group accuses Bush of trying to pack the courts with right-wing judges.
The National Abortion Rights Action League issued a statement that said, “President Bush today appointed one of the most virulently anti-choice and anti-privacy judicial activists. … Bush proved today that he’ll go to any length, violate any rule, and upset any precedent to pack the courts with anti-choice extremists.”
David Tseng, executive director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays said, “Why is the president issuing lifetime appointments to bigots? Executive decisions like these assault the dignity and humanity of GLBT families and loved ones.”
Tseng is an attorney and former Clinton White House senior policy adviser.
Cheryl Jacques, president of the homosexual rights organization, Human Rights Campaign expressed doubt that Pryor would be able to “separate his antigay beliefs from his professional duties.” She pointed out that Pryor changed his vacation plans to avoid being at Disney World during Gay Days.
The recess appointment will last until the end of 2005. A month ago, Charles Pickering was named to the bench in the same manner. Democrats continue to use filibusters to block the appeals court nominations of judges Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, and Janice Rogers Brown. A Hispanic nominee, Miguel Estrada, withdrew his nomination in September 2003 after waiting two years for an up-or-down vote.