Mr. Bush said in a statement, ”I am proud to name this leading American lawyer to the appellate bench.”
“A minority of Democratic senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified nominees from receiving up-or-down votes. Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate’s constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system.”
Democrats, who accuse Pryor of being an activist judge and a foe of abortion rights, have used filibusters to block six judicial nominees, a maneuver last used in 1968. Republicans could not muster the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and end the filibusters, leaving the nominations in limbo even though Republican leaders said a slim majority of the 100-member Senate supported Bush’s nominees.
Pryor is a founder of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which raises money for GOP attorneys general. During Pryor’s confirmation hearing, he said he had not lobbied tobacco companies or companies under investigation by his office, but Democrats said they had documents proving otherwise.
The recess appointment allows Pryor to skip confirmation and hold the seat until the next Congress takes office, which will be in January 2005. The window allowing Bush to make such an appointment closes Monday when Congress returns from its Presidents Day break.
“Judicial activists like Mr. Pryor are committed to an ideological agenda that puts corporate interests over the public’s interests and that would roll back the hard-won rights of consumers, minorities, women, and Americans with disabilities,” Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Actions like this show the American people that this While House will stop at nothing to try and turn the independent federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party.”
Republicans applauded the president’s actions.
“This is a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement. “Bill Pryor is a good man who had the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate and was refused an up-or-down vote.”
In January, Bush used a recess appointment to circumvent the blockage of Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats have also blocked the appeals court nominations of judges Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, Janice Rogers Brown, and lawyer Miguel Estrada, who withdrew him nomination in September.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals includes Alabama, Georgia and Florida.