Bypassing Senate Democrats who have stalled his judicial nominations, President Bush installed Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
Bush praised Pryor as “this leading American lawyer” and complained that the Senate had unfairly blocked him and other White House nominees.
“A minority of Democratic senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified nominees from receiving up-or-down votes,” Bush said. “Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate’s constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system.”
Pryor was immediately sworn in in Alabama.
The White House had begun informing senators Friday afternoon of Bush’s intention.
The recess appointment, which will last only until the end of 2005, was the second Bush has used to sidestep Democrats who have mounted successful filibusters against Pryor and five other appeals court nominees.
Last month, Bush used a similar appointment to promote Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush picked Pryor last April for a seat on the 11th Circuit that covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Abortion rights advocates immediately mounted a campaign against him, citing Pryor’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that said women had a constitutional right to terminate pregnancy.
Republicans have been unsuccessful in five attempts, the last one in November, at breaking through the parliamentary blockade that Democrats erected against Pryor’s nomination.
Pryor, 41, is a founder of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which raises money for GOP attorneys general. At his confirmation hearing, he said he had not lobbied tobacco companies or companies under investigation by his office, but Democrats said they had documents showing Pryor may have been involved in some fund-raising activities.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Bush of using a recess appointment to bolster himself with Republican conservatives before the fall election.
“Regularly circumventing the advise and consent process is not the way to change the tone in Washington,” Schumer said.
And Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said, “Actions like this show the American people that this White House will stop at nothing to try to turn the independent federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party.”
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the appointment was “a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster.”
“I’ve always heard that when you have nothing else to say, you call people names,” he said. “That’s apparently what Democrats are now resorting to, just name calling. Bill Pryor is a very qualified, highly professional nominee who has a proven track record of enforcing the law, rather than his own personal agenda.”
Besides Pickering and Pryor, Democrats also have used filibusters to block the Bush’s appeals court nominations of Judge Priscilla Owen, Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada and judges Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown. Estrada withdrew his nomination in September.