Less than one week before the U.S. Senate recessed for the summer, Republicans pushed for a vote on four of President Bush's federal judicial nominees. All four were blocked when Republicans failed to end the Democrat's filibusters on each nominee. A filibuster enables Senators to delay a vote by holding the Senate floor indefinitely, effectively preventing any vote from taking place. A filibuster can only be ended by "invoking cloture," which requires three-fifths of the Senate (60 Senators) to agree to end floor debate and force a vote.
While the vast majority of Bush federal judicial nominations have been confirmed by the Senate (198 to date), ten of Bush's judicial nominees considered by the Senate have not been confirmed, including these four.
Questions were raised about the qualifications of these four nominees-William G. Myers, III, Richard A. Griffin, David W. McKeague, and Henry W. Saad. Senate Democrats pointed to the candidates' inadequate legal experience and concern over whether they have shown to be capable of making legal decisions based on the law rather than ideology.
Some observers questioned whether the votes were forced by Republicans as a way to argue during the Republic National Convention that Democrats are obstructionists. As Amanda Griscom of Salon writes, "when Frist and his colleagues advocate these nominees on the Senate floor-and force the Democrats to block them-it's like staging a pep rally on Capitol Hill for their biggest fans."1
William G. Myers, III
The vote to invoke cloture to end the filibuster of William G. Myers, III as a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed 53-44.
Over 180 civil, human, disability, senior citizens', women's, Native American, planning and environmental rights organizations opposed confirming Myers based on his record as an advocate for industry over the public interest. These groups, of which SIECUS was one, also cited Myers' lack of experience and his open criticism of privacy laws as reasons for opposition. The letter expressed concern that a judge who has shown little regard in the past for individuals' right to make private and independent decisions about their own sexual health and wellbeing is apt to continue that pattern during a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
Myers-who has never served as a judge before-has written about his disdain for the Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut decisions which affirmed a woman's right to make her own private medical decisions and has stated his support for enforcing sodomy laws. The criminalization of sodomy was found unconstitutional last year by the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision of Lawrence v. Texas.
Three Other Nominees Are Rejected
Just two days later, on July 22nd, three more judicial nominees were brought up for a vote before the U.S. Senate. Cloture votes on all three nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Michigan -Richard A. Griffin, David W. McKeague, and Henry W. Saad-failed amid concerns over past decisions which hindered civil rights and worker's rights.
Calling Democrats obstructionists, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said, "It is a sad commentary on the deterioration of the judicial confirmation process that we are now approaching double-digit filibusters."2
According to the Democratic Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate, during the Republican-led Senate "more than 60 of President Clinton's nominees were not given hearings or votes in Committee, and others were filibustered or waited years to receive hearings."3
Still No Vote on Claude Allen
Meanwhile, Claude Allen, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, has still not been brought up for a vote. The U.S. Senate resumes in September at which time a vote on Allen could occur. SIECUS will continue to oppose the nomination of Allen to a lifetime seat on the federal bench for a myriad of reasons. Allen is a strong advocate for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs funded by the federal government and supports supplying inaccurate information to women about the medical implications of abortion in doctors' offices. In addition, Allen has backed the deletion of medically accurate information about condom effectiveness and teenage pregnancy prevention programs from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
If you would like to read the letters signed by SIECUS opposing William G. Myers, III and Claude Allen, please contact our DC Office at: 202/265-2405.
- A. Griscom, "The Obstructionism Strategy," Salon, July 23, 2004. Available online.
- H. Dewar, "Senate Democrats Block 3 More Bush Judicial Nominations," The Washington Post, July 23, 2004.
- "Democrats Fix Judicial Vacancy Crisis, Continue to Meet Duty to Advise and Consent," Democratic Policy Committee, U.S. Senate. Available online.