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BET.com
updated 6/10/2005 12:57:34 PM ET 2005-06-10T16:57:34

After two years of protests against President Bush’s conservative nominees to the federal bench, the U.S. Senate Wednesday confirmed the most controversial justice of all, Janice Rogers Brown, an African-American woman.

The 56-43 vote means that Brown, a former California Supreme Court justice, will join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, second in prestige and power only to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that both his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate turned their backs on African Americans by allowing what he described as an enemy of affirmative action on such an influential court.

“You only have one shot, and they put somebody on the Court whose face is Black,” but who has no real concern with issues important to African Americans, Watt told BET.com just minutes before he and fellow caucus members marched to the Senate to urge senators to deny Brown a seat on the bench.

Deal struck
Last month, centrist senators from both parties struck a deal to allow a vote on Bush’s controversial nominees. For Democrats, this ended two years of filibustering the president’s picks.

Republicans, unable to muster the 60 votes needed to override a Democratic filibuster, threatened to vote down filibusters altogether. But the filibuster law, under which a party can debate an issue indefinitely, thus keeping it from ever reaching a vote, is one of the only ways the minority party can have a say in key legislative decisions. So Democrats agreed to allow most of Bush’s nominees a vote on the Senate floor if Republicans agreed leave the filibuster law intact.

The reason for the Democrats two-year denial of Brown is that they see her as a conservative judicial activist who puts her own political views – opposing affirmative action, limiting abortion and placing a premium on corporate rights over individual consumer rights – above the law.

“Our problem with the compromise is the price that was paid,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told The Washington Post Tuesday.

"Deep hostility"
Speaking from the Senate floor Tuesday, Rep. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of Brown’s most vocal critics, said that the justice has shown “a deep hostility to civil rights, to workers’ rights, to consumer protection and to a wide variety of governmental actions in many other cases.”

But many Republicans said that the president made a commendable choice.

“Another positive step has been taken today with the Senate confirmation of Justice Janice Rogers Brown,” Ken Melhman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement immediately following the vote. “As her supporters have said, if Justice Brown is given the opportunity for an up-or-down vote, her qualifications will undoubtedly earn her the support of the majority in the Senate.

Contrasting greatly with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who called Brown the “least worthy pick the president has made  … based on her record,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said that Brown represents "one of the best nominations the president has made. She is a woman of integrity and ability."

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