Lawmakers pull all-nighter on judicial nominees

Friday, November 14, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush delivered a wake-up call to the Senate on Thursday, punctuating an all-night talkathon with a demand for an "up or down" vote on four of his appellate court nominees blocked by Democrats.

Standing in the Oval Office with three women whose nominations have been stalled, Bush launched his broadside as Democrats and Republicans took turns at the microphone during a marathon session organized by majority Republicans to protest Democratic filibusters.

"These people deserve an up or down vote on the Senate floor," Bush told reporters. "And yet a few senators are playing politics and it's wrong and it's shameful. ... I will stand with them to the bitter end."

"The senators who are playing politics with their nominations are acting shamefully," said the president, flanked by Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judges Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown. Bush called it "ugly politics."

The Senate turned the Capitol into insomniac central in the wee hours Thursday as lawmakers went throughout the night arguing the merits and drawbacks of Democrats blocking some nominees.

Cots and coffee

With their cots and coffee set up near the Senate chamber, senators made clear they were willing to talk themselves hoarse through the night to make their points on the judicial nomination process.

"Frankly, there would not be much else going on here at 11:15 at night in the United States Senate, so we wanted to raise this issue and bring the message to people across America so they can tell the people who are obstructing, 'OK, think about it,"' said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, at a Republican rally just off the floor of the Senate.

Those who expected scintillating debate were disappointed, as the marathon turned into a legislative pillowfight among colleagues. Instead of questioning and challenging each other, Republicans talked for 30 minutes, and then Democrats talked for 30 minutes, over and over. The plan was for each side to get 15 hours of the 30-hour "debate."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has scheduled more votes today.

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