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Senate Panel Rejects Bush Judicial Nominee - 2002-09-05

A key U.S. Senate panel Thursday rejected President Bush's nominee for the federal appeals court Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. It was the second time the Democrat-led Judiciary Committee handed Mr. Bush a major defeat in his attempts to put more conservatives in judicial positions.

The Senate panel voted 10-9 along party lines to defeat Justice Owen's nomination to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Democrats argued that many of the nominee's rulings appeared to be influenced by her personal beliefs especially her opposition to abortion.

Senator Ted Kennedy was particularly blunt during a confirmation hearing in July. "Justice Owen, you seem to be making, not interpreting the law," he said.

But Republicans note Justice Owen has been praised by the American Bar Association and say critics are distorting her record.

Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott called the committee's vote 'extremely unfair,' and warned the action could hurt future bipartisan cooperation in the Senate.

"It is very hard to maintain a cooperative atmosphere and civility in the Senate when you have this sort of conduct, this kind of vote, by just 10 members of the Democratic party on the Judiciary Committee. I am very disturbed by this," he said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush is very disappointed by the vote. He said the Judiciary Committee on a partisan basis denied a qualified jurist the chance to serve the country.

Earlier this year, the Judiciary Committee rejected another of Mr. Bush's nominees to the Appeals Court, U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi. In that case, Democrats sided with liberal groups, which argued Judge Pickering's record reflected little respect for the rights of minorities, women and workers.

The Senate has confirmed 73 of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. Some 40 of his nominees have yet to have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.