Manuel Balce Ceneta  /  AP
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., voices his strong opposition to the nomination of William Pryor Jr. for a permanent judgeship during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday.
updated 5/12/2005 2:28:27 PM ET 2005-05-12T18:28:27

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Thursday offered to help confirm some of President Bush’s blocked judicial nominees from Michigan in an attempt to stave off a showdown over filibustering the White House’s court appointments.

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — who said he expects a filibuster showdown to come as early as next week — said all of Bush’s judicial nominees deserve confirmation votes, not just selected ones.

“I think anything less than that at this point ... the American people will recognize as a sham,” Frist said.

Reid, in his offer, promised that Democrats would not filibuster the nominations of Michigan nominees Richard Griffin, David McKeague and Susan Neilson to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., calls for a vote on them instead of pushing his plan to ban judicial filibusters.

Challenge to Republicans
“Do you want to confirm judges or do you want to pick a fight?” Reid challenged Republicans.

Democrats have blocked the Michigan nominees’ approval because of the objections of Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who were upset because President Clinton’s nominees to that court were never given a confirmation hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Reid, who did not ask for anything from Frist in return, did say that a fourth Michigan nominee, Henry Saad, would likely be filibustered by Democrats.

This came as Republican senators sent acting U.S. Appeals Judge William Pryor’s nomination for a permanent judgeship to the Senate, setting up a showdown over Bush’s four most controversial judicial nominees.

The GOP-controlled panel approved Pryor on a 10-8 vote, with all Republicans supporting him and all Democrats opposing him.

Recess nomination of Pryor 'a slap in the face'
Pryor, the former Alabama attorney general, currently holds a temporary seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta because President Bush last year circumvented Congress and placed him on the court. For Pryor to win a lifetime appointment, the full Senate must confirm him by the end of the year.

Democrats filibustered Pryor and six other nominees during Bush’s first term, and have threatened to block them again.

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“While the renomination of all the rejected judges was a thumb in the eye, the recess appointment of Bill Pryor was a slap in the face,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats cast Pryor as an extremist whose views on abortion and gay rights would prevent him from being an impartial judge.  Republicans insist his personal views don’t influence his decisions and shouldn’t be considered.

The test: Do they respect the law?
“We can’t look at someone’s personal faith or religious faith and say, ‘I don’t agree with you on this, I don’t agree with you on that personally, therefore you can never be a judge,”’ said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. “The test must be and always must be, do they respect the law?”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has threatened to disallow future filibusters and force a vote on Pryor, Idaho lawyer William Myers, Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judge Janice Rogers Brown — a move called the “nuclear” or “constitutional” option.

Pryor was the last of those four nominees — who Democrats describe as the four “red-hot” nominees in the judicial battle — to get approval by this year’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

Votes on North Carolina judge Terrence Boyle and White House staff secretary Brett Kavanaugh, who also want lifetime seats on the U.S. Appeals Court, were delayed by the committee.

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