What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : Pryor Nomination/Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. (2005 senate Roll Call 132)
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Pryor Nomination/Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
senate Roll Call 132     Jun 08, 2005
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Today's nine U.S. Supreme Court justices have served together for the longest stretch of time in the nation's history. As they age, however, a retirement (or death) among them becomes increasingly likely. Consequently, nominations to the federal bench have taken on a highly partisan cast in recent years as both political parties have accused each other of filibustering well-qualified judicial nominees selected by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Progressives have argued that President Bush has been trying to stack the federal bench with right-wing ideologues in the hopes of appointing one to the U.S. Supreme Court should a vacancy open; the battle over the nomination of Miguel Estrada during the 108th Congress (2003-2004) offers a prime example. Conservatives have complained that Senate Democrats have unfairly blocked votes on President Bush's judicial nominees. The President and not the Senate, they argue, has the sole power of judicial appointment. On May 23, 2005, a judicial compromise drafted by a moderate "gang of 14" senators deflated a procedural strategy advanced by Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) and dubbed the "nuclear option" by former Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) which would have reinterpreted Senate rules so as to prevent extended debate (a filibuster) on President Bush's judicial nominees, including any to the U.S. Supreme Court. The "gang of 14" compromise allowed three of President Bush's most controversial nominees-Pricilla Owen, Janice Rodgers Brown, and William Pryor-to proceed in the legislative process while two other nominees remained blocked. Those pivotal moderate senators also pledged to oppose the proposed change in Senate rules, a pact which denied Majority Leader Frist the votes needed to change Senate rules governing the consideration of judicial nominees. The subject of this vote was a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). Sixty votes are required to invoke cloture and, if invoked, cloture limits debate on the nominee and allows for a final vote on confirmation. Progressives voted against cloture and argued that William Pryor held extremist political views on issues such as the role of the judiciary, the separation of church and state, and women's rights which did not belong on the federal bench. Senator Durbin (D-IL) catalogued a number of statements made by Pryor which Progressives found disturbing. "William Pryor believes it is the job of a Federal judge to carry out the political agenda of the President. How else could you interpret his comment about the Bush v. Gore case in 2000, when he said: I'm probably the only one who wanted it 5-4. I wanted Governor Bush to have a full appreciation of the judiciary and judicial selection so we can have no more appointments like Justice Souter." In another statement which bears upon the separation of church and state, Pryor explained that "the challenge of the next millennium will be to preserve the American experiment by restoring its Christian perspective." On the issue of women's rights, Pryor described Roe v. Wade as "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." That 1973 decision, which upheld the rights of women to decide whether or not to have an abortion, was characterized by Pryor as "unsupported by the test and structure of the Constitution" and "has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children." Conservatives voted to invoke cloture based on their support for the nominee. According to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), "He [Pryor] is an extraordinary individual, a wonderful human being, a brilliant lawyer, a man of the highest integrity, who has won the respect and support and confidence of the people of Alabama to an extraordinary degree." Sessions also questioned Pryor's alleged extremism in the area of abortion rights with the following: "When there were threats on abortion clinics, Judge Pryor held a high-profile press conference in the State [of Alabama] warning of prosecutions for those who participated in those attacks. He said those attacks on abortion clinics-although he certainly did not favor abortion clinics-were 'despicable crimes' against our fellow citizens that would not be tolerated and that he would prosecute people who did so." Senator Dominici (R-NM) also noted that, "he [Pryor] issued an opinion stating that Alabama's partial-birth abortion law was unconstitutional and could not be enforced." On a vote of 67-32, the motion to invoke cloture was adopted and the nomination of William H. Pryor, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit was allowed to proceed to a final vote.

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