Harry Reid Declares War on Judges Owen, Brown

Two potential conservative female Supreme Court nominees will face strong opposition from Senate Democrats if nominated by President Bush, said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) at a press conference Tuesday.

U.S. Appeals Judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown are considered plausible Bush nominees as the Senate’s focus turns from filling the seat of late Chief Justice William Rehnquist to that of retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Senate Democrats—under the leadership of then-Minority Whip Reid—previously blocked Owen’s and Brown’s confirmation to their current appellate posts. Owen was nominated to the 5th Circuit in 2001, and Brown was tapped for the 9th Circuit in 2003. They won confirmation after a group of Senate moderates struck a compromise to avoid the “nuclear” option, which would have ended the Democrats’ filibuster.

Reid said he would suggest potential Supreme Court nominees—as well as names he would like the President avoid—to the White House Wednesday. When asked his opinion on Owen or Brown, Reid said the nomination of either “would be a terrible mistake.”

Because O’Connor has often been a swing vote on the court, official Washington is gearing up for what is expected to be a battle far more intense than that of Roberts’ confirmation. Reid himself declared the next justice’s seat won’t be filled as easily, and advised Bush not to rush his selection.

Opposing Roberts, Too

Consenting to the reality of Roberts’ confirmation next week, Reid adamantly announced his opposition to the current D.C. Circuit judge Tuesday, but at the same time said he is allowing members of the caucus to vote as they see fit.

“I just want everyone to feel comfortable about it,” he said.

His objections arose mainly while reviewing memos authored by Roberts during his days as a Reagan Administration lawyer, he said. The phrase “illegal amigos,” used by Roberts in a non-public memo to the president, was declared especially offensive by Reid.

During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roberts countered by saying he was only expressing the views of his employer at that time.

Reid said he could have overlooked “the folly of [Roberts’] youth” if he had taken back those statements during his testimony, but that didn’t happen.