Speculation mounted this week that Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen would be the first appellate-court nominee brought to the Senate floor this year for a confirmation vote. That would almost certainly spark a Democratic filibuster that in turn would cause Senate Republicans to change Senate rules and prohibit the filibuster of judicial nominees.
Democrats successfully blocked Owen on four cloture votes in 2003. Even though she enjoys the support of a strong majority in the current Senate, she still lacks the 60 votes needed for cloture. Republicans have only two more weeks to act on the filibuster question before the Memorial Day recess, which begins May 30; and waiting any longer than that could make the “nuclear option” more difficult given the possibility that Chief Justice William Rehnquist could retire when the Supreme Court finishes its session in June.