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Marathon Debate in US Senate Extended - 2003-11-14


Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are extending the marathon debate over President Bush's stalled judicial nominees beyond the 0500 UTC Friday deadline. Republicans are allowing another nine hours of debate on the issue.

The Republican majority in the Senate is holding the debate after coming under pressure from conservative activists who argue it has not done enough to fight Democratic delaying tactics that have blocked four judicial nominations from coming to a vote.

Republicans say Democrats' tactics, known as filibusters, are unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is a member of the Judiciary Committee. "Through an unjust abuse of the filibuster, a minority of Senators is preventing a majority of the Senate from taking an up or down vote on President Bush's judicial nominees, and that is just not right," he said.

But Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, disagrees.

"Our friends on the other side say "if the President nominates, why aren't you rubber stamping it?" That is not what our Founding Fathers said or agreed to or instructed us to. They said we should make our own independent judgment and decision," he said.

At the White House, President Bush took a dim view of Democrats' attempts to block his judicial nominations. "The Senators who are playing politics with the nominations are acting shamefully," he said.

Democrats note they have only blocked four nominees, whom they consider too conservative, and that they have approved 168 others. They say the hours spent on the debate could have been better used on other matters, including legislation to boost the economy and improve health care.

When the debate ends Friday, Republicans say they will seek a vote on a proposed rule change to effectively end filibusters on nominations. Democrats vow to block it.

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