On July 31, by a vote of 53-44, an ideologically divided Senate defeated a motion to vote on the 11th Circuit Court nomination of Alabama Atty. Gen. William Pryor.
The vote, which would have broken a Democratic filibuster against the conservative nominee, required a three-fifths majority of the Senate, or 60 votes. Republicans were completely united in their support of giving Pryor a vote, but only two Democrats supported the idea of an up-or-down vote.
Democrats opposition to Pryors nomination was especially visceral, and Republicans tried to heighten the stakes by publicizing the fact that Pryors views on several social issues-especially abortion-were informed by his Roman Catholic faith.
Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) openly accused Democrats of applying an “anti-religious litmus test” against nominees who “openly adhere to Catholic and Baptist doctrines” on abortion and related issues (see page 3, August 4 issue). One conservative group, the Committee For Justice, ran political advertisements accusing the Democrats of anti-Catholic bigotry, using the slogan, “No Catholics Need Apply.”
Pryors committee hearing in June featured fierce questioning from Democrats. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) went after Pryor for insensitivity toward the rights of homosexuals when he filed a brief in the Lawrence v. Texas case on the constitutionality of sodomy laws. Feingold even went after him for his choice of vacation.
“News accounts also report that you even went so far as to schedule a family vacation at Disney World in order to avoid Gay Day,” said Feingold.
Pryor replied that he had not wanted to subject his young daughters to that yearly unofficial festival at the theme park, which is reportedly characterized by abundant lewd conduct.
Republicans were quick to defend Pryor both against Democrats and the left-wing interest groups working against nominees like Pryor, Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen and others.
“Im not going to sit here and allow a well-qualified, fair-minded nominee like yourself to be categorized as a quote, extremist, unquote, what some of these outside groups that have tried to make you out to be,” said Hatch.
Rep. Jo Bonner (R.-Ala.) testified on Pryors behalf, highlighting Pryors record as a champion of civil rights. “He offered the Alabama legislation that establishes cross burning as a felony, and he led the fight to abolish the Alabama Constitutions antiquated ban on interracial marriages,” said Bonner.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), who preceded Pryor as Alabama attorney general, pointed out that Alabamas black leaders-almost all Democrats-are backing the nomination.
“Why would a leading African-American Democrat, like our Congressman Arthur Davis, himself a Harvard graduate and a lawyer and a former assistant United States attorney; Representative Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, a member of the National Democratic Committee. . . why would he support [Pryor]? They support him, because he has not been as people have caricatured him. He has been a champion for liberty and civil rights.”
National Democrats, however, were not convinced, and the Senate refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the nominee. In fact, Pryor was just one of four nominees whom the Democrats filibustered against that week. With similar arguments, they blocked votes that same week on the nominations of Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada.
A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the cloture motion, simply to proceed to an up-or-down vote on Pryors nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A “no” vote was in opposition to giving Pryor an up-or-down vote.
|FOR THE CLOTURE MOTION: 53||AGAINST THE CLOTURE MOTION: 44|
|REPUBLICANS FOR (51):
DEMOCRATS FOR (2):
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST (0):
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (44):
NOT VOTING: 3
|REPUBLICANS (0):||DEMOCRATS (2):||INDEPENDENTS (1):|