WASHINGTON — Republicans are already bracing for a possible filibuster of federal appeals court nominee Bill Pryor’s confirmation vote on the Senate floor — although the Alabama attorney general has not yet passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mike Brumas,press secretary for Sen. Jeff Sessions,R-Mobile,confirmed Friday that there is a good possibility Democrats could filibuster on the Senate floor to prevent a vote on Pryor’s nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,based in Atlanta.
Democrats have already filibustered nomination votes on Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Priscilla Owen for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I don’t know if that’ll happen,filibuster,” Sessions said Thursday after a heated debate in the judiciary committee over Pryor’s nomination. “We hope not. These things blow up and sometimes they calm down.”
During the meeting,Sessions adamantly defended Pryor amid Democratic demands for further investigation into documents detailing Pryor’s fund-raising activities.
During the mid-1990s,Pryor served under Sessions when he was attorney general of Alabama.
The controversy gained momentum last week when the Mobile Register reported the contents of documents detailing phone calls Pryor made to possible large corporate contributors to the Republican Attorneys General Association. Pryor helped found RAGA and served as treasurer for the fund-raising organization.
The story then gained national attention,including an article in Thursday’s Washington Post,which pointed out that some companies Pryor solicited for contributions had operations in Alabama,suggesting a possible conflict of interest in legal matters.
“Nothing’s here,” Sessions said angrily,interrupting Sen. Charles Schumer,D-N.Y.,during the committee debate. Schumer led the Democratic demands for a delay in the vote on Pryor’s nomination,originally scheduled to take place Thursday morning.
Schumer pleaded with Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch,R-Utah,to hold off the vote. He said more investigation was needed into a possible contradiction between the fund-raising documents and answers Pryor gave to Democrats who questioned him about his involvement in RAGA in June during his hearing. Hatch,forced to end the meeting because of procedural rules,scheduled the vote for late Thursday evening,drawing Democratic complaints.
Sessions and others Republicans said the Democrats were simply attempting to delay the vote.
“The real question is: Did he say anything that’s wrong?” Sessions said. “Did he make any false statements or deliberate efforts to mislead the committee? He was perfectly willing to talk yesterday and answer any questions you had on that,and the members of the committee on the Democratic side failed to take advantage of that.
“But your staffs did ask questions,and he answered them all properly and honestly and completely. So we don’t have an issue here,” Sessions said.
Hatch eventually rescheduled the vote for Wednesday because the ranking Democrat on the committee could not attend Thursday night,leaving time for senators to investigate the accusations against Pryor.
During the debate Republicans accused Democrats of smearing Pryor’s “good name.” Brumas said that Democrats could use the ethical dilemma as additional justification for a filibuster. Democrats have already expressed concern that Pryor’s openly conservative beliefs are too extreme for a federal judge.
Hatch foreshadowed an impending filibuster during debate over Pryor on Thursday.
“For the first time in history,we’re facing filibusters with judicial nominees,and I just think it’s wrong,” Hatch said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,R-Tenn.,has suggested he may take action to circumvent any further filibusters of votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees,according to media reports.
Frist has considered introducing a bill that would allow for a series of rolling votes that would eventually allow 51 senators,the number of Republicans in the Senate,to overcome a filibuster instead of the usual 60. But 67 senators would have to vote for the bill to change the Senate rules.
“I don’t know how far that would go,” Brumas said. “It would be difficult to change the rules of the