Democrats Delay Vote on Bush's Judicial Nominee

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday forced a delay in the committee confirmation vote on Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen until after the August recess. President Bush has nominated Justice Owen to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the committee, blamed the delay on the Bush administration.

"I've been asked, last night, by the White House, they were concerned that Judge Owen had not had a chance to get her answers to our questions in," Leahy said, "and I've conferred with Senator Hatch. He would prefer, also that she be given more time, so the Owen - we're not going to have a vote today - the Owen [nomination] will be put over and will be put on the agenda when we come back."

But after the hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking minority member of the committee, told that Leahy's portrayal of the reason for the delay in the Owen nomination was not entirely accurate.

"They filed a whole number of questions, at the last minute, on her and the administration did not feel like they should go ahead until she had sufficient time to answer those questions," he said.

Hatch said he hopes such tactics will not become "business as usual" for the committee.

"This is becoming the rule around here to, at the last second, file a pile of questions or ask for different materials," he explained. "Then you have to request the delay and it looks like you wanted the delay when, in fact, it's used for delay by the other side."

As previously reported, Owen's nomination has been opposed by Democrats on the committee and liberal special interest groups alike because of her perceived position on abortion.

Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest owner of fee-for-service abortion clinics, called Owen an "extremist willing to trample the rights of young women" for her interpretation of a Texas "parental notification" law. The legislation requires that minors be "sufficiently mature and well-informed" before receiving permission from a judge to not notify at least one of their parents 48 hours prior to obtaining an abortion.

In a July 23 hearing, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) tried to portray Owen as a pro-life activist who wanted to impose her own beliefs, rather than state and federal law, on pregnant women.

"You are, in a sense, a judicial activist," Feinstein said. "You went beyond the law, as the law was written in Texas, with respect to notification."

But the author of that law agreed with Owen's interpretation of it. In a July 22 letter, Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro (R) wrote:

"I believe Justice Owen's rulings do not center around the right to an abortion, but rather when a judicial bypass could be granted...Justice Owen never argued that this young girl had no right to an abortion. She agreed, based on the statute itself, with the trial court and the appellate court, which ruled that if the girl decided to receive an abortion, her parents should be notified."

No date was set for consideration of Owen's nomination. The committee did approve the nominations of Timothy Corrigan and Jose Martinez of Florida, and Terrence McVerry and Arthur Schwab of Pennsylvania, to be U.S. District Court judges in their respective states by a block vote of 19 to zero. One U.S. Attorney nominee and four nominees to be U.S. Marshals were also approved, on a voice vote.

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