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Inside Politics

Bush: Stop 'ugly politics' over judicial nominees

Each side tries to prove point in marathon Senate session

President Bush poses Thursday with some of his judicial nominees in the Oval Office. From left: Priscilla Owen, Janice Brown and Carolyn Kuhl.
President Bush poses Thursday with some of his judicial nominees in the Oval Office. From left: Priscilla Owen, Janice Brown and Carolyn Kuhl.

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Bush criticizes senators he thinks are holding up the vote for his judicial nominees.
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CNN's Jonathan Karl reports as the Senate talkathon gets under way.
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CNN's Bruce Morton takes a look at the history of Senate filibusters.
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Judiciary (system of justice)
Justice and Rights

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As senators passed the halfway point Thursday in a 30-hour debate designed to bring attention to Democratic filibusters blocking three of the White House's judicial nominees, President Bush called for a stop to the "ugly politics."

"It's wrong and it's shameful, and it's hurting the system," he told reporters.

The president appeared at the White House with three female nominees: Priscilla Owen -- whose nomination has been blocked by Democrats -- Janice Rogers Brown and Carolyn Kuhl. Brown and Kuhl have not yet had their names brought to the Senate floor.

The three nominees at the center of the dispute are Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice nominated for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans; Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, nominated by Bush to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, also nominated to the 5th Circuit.

"I have handled my duty in the right way by picking superb men and women to serve our country as federal judges," Bush said. "These folks deserve an up or down vote on the Senate floor."

Senate Republican leaders scheduled the extended debate because if no Democrats are on hand to object at every moment during the entire 30 hours, Republicans could break the filibuster and confirm the nominees.

No one expected that to happen, but the Republicans hoped keeping the Senate in session all night for the first time in a decade would draw public attention to the Democratic strategy of using filibusters to keep Bush nominees off the federal bench.

The senators had cots brought into the Capitol on Wednesday in preparation for the marathon session.

The three contested nominees have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and have enough support to get the simple majority vote needed to be confirmed on the Senate floor.

However, Democrats are using Senate rules to filibuster the nominations, effectively blocking a vote. It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, and Republicans, who have 51 seats in the Senate, have been unable to line up enought votes.

"There has been a concerted effort by the Democratic leadership to block judicial nominees in an unprecedented way, and that's why we're all here tonight," South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said from the floor of the Senate. "Not only is it unprecedented, it's very dangerous."

Democrats: Bush got '98 percent' of his picks

Democrats said that 98 percent of Bush's nominees have been confirmed, and that the filibuster is a long-standing Senate rule to block ideological nominees who are out of the mainstream.

Democrats also said Republicans used filibusters to block far more of President Clinton's judicial nominations, and accuse Republicans of making a big deal of the Democratic filibusters to make the Democratic Party look bad.

But Bush insisted, "Our circuit courts remain in some cases dangerously vacant... Where's the justice?" If the senators behind the filibusters are fair, he said, they will bring the judicial nominees "up to a vote today."

"Well, here we go, more complaining and more upset from the other side," said Barbara Boxer, D-California, on the floor of the Senate. "They just didn't get 100 percent of what they wanted. They only got 98 percent. The score, 168 to 4. You can print other charts, but here's the truth."

"This is a phony filibuster on a phony issue," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Wednesday, on CNN's Judy Woodruff's "Inside Politics."

Leahy, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, said Republicans used Senate rules to torpedo 63 judicial nominations made by President Clinton.

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