Democrats and the Owen Nomination

Today the Senate is scheduled to vote on the motion to end the Democrats’ filibuster of Texas Justice Pricilla Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the 3rd vote to end the Left’s blockade of Justice Owen this year.

Do you remember last year when the Democrats held the Senate majority? During those dark days, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), killed the Owen nomination in committee. At that time they thought they were done with her.

A funny thing happened two months later that the Daschle Democrats didn’t expect: the elections of November 2002. The GOP regained control in the Senate and strengthened their majority in the House. After those fall victories, President Bush wisely re-nominated Justice Owen to the 5th Circuit – Democrats had a fit.

So, why did the Democrats kill her nomination in the first place? Why were they upset that the President re-nominated her? Why are they blocking her now?

Is she unqualified for the post? Democrats have claimed as much. Following the Judiciary Committee’s vote on September 5, 2002, then-Majority Leader Daschle (S.D.) said, “We will confirm qualified judges. . .Don’t send us unqualified people. . . You send us unqualified judges, and they’re not going to pass confirmation.”

Such a claim about Justice Owen gets sticky for the Democrats because the very organization whose ratings Sen. Leahy labeled “the gold standard,” the American Bar Association, unanimously rated her “well-qualified.”

No, the opposition to Owen has nothing to do with her qualifications. The problem is that she’s too conservative. In a September 13, 2002, editorial, The Washington Post noted, in response to the Judiciary Committee’s vote to kill the Owen nomination, that “the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection last week of President Bush’s nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Priscilla Owen, opens a distressing new chapter in the war over judicial nominations. Justice Owen was not rejected because she is unqualified for the post. . . She was rejected on a party-line vote because she is a conservative. . .”

The biggest problem Democrats have with Priscilla Owen’s views is that she is not pro-abortion. This sort of litmus test has been rejected, in word if not in deed, by both parties for years. But with the Owen nomination, the pro-abortion test became obvious. The same Post editorial stated, “. . .At the end of the day, the objections to Justice Owen were almost purely ideological and dominated specifically by the politics of abortion. This is a dangerous road, one that will harm the judiciary and come back to bite the Democrats who rejected Justice Owen.”

Such politicization is harmful to the judiciary. It tells all current judges who may wish to one day gain a nomination to the federal bench to write opinions as they believe the Senate Judiciary Committee would desire. It also reminds the rest of us that Democrats have tainted the confirmation process with their liberal politics to the point that the system can no longer be seen as a truly principled operation.



  • Washington Post Editorial: Injuring the Judiciary
  • Dept. of Justice: Priscilla Owen Biography
  • National Review: Owen Hits the Glass Ceiling
  • National Review: Another Battle Begins
  • Washington Post: Senate Committee Rejects Bush Appointee
  • Washington Times: A Litmus Test for Judicious Senators
  • Washington Times: Shipwrecking Astute Judges
  • Washington Times: No Independence on Senate Judiciary Committee
  • 1st Senate Roll Call Vote to Invoke Cloture on Owen Nomination
  • 2nd Senate Roll Call Vote to Invoke Cloture on Owen Nomination
  • National Review: Justice Owen’s Critics
  • Weekly Standard: Priscilla Owen’s “Activist” Credentials
  • Senate Republican Policy Committee: Senator Gramm Lauds Justice Owen’s Circuit Court Nomination
  • Senate Republican Policy Committee: If Justice Owen Isn’t “Qualified,” Who Can Be?
  • Human Events Online: Senate Freshmen and the Confirmation Breakdown
  • Human Events Online: The GOP’s Effort to Get Judges Confirmed
  • Human Events Online: The Senate’s Duty of Advice and Consent – In Their Words
  • Human Events Online: The Treatment of Judicial Nominees – Dems Then and Now
  • Human Events Online: Voting on Nominations – What Leading Democrats Used to Believe
  • Human Events Online: More Democrat Duplicity – How Long Should It Take to Consider Judicial Nominations?
  • HUMAN EVENTS: The Right Ear – Only White Men, Please
  • HUMAN EVENTS: Democrats to Court Nominees: Only White Males Need Apply
  • HUMAN EVENTS: Will GOP ‘Go Nuclear’ on Judges