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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Senate up late for a judicial debate


WASHINGTON - With coffee and cots on hand, the Senate last night launched an all-night showdown between Republicans and Democrats over whether to permit votes on several of President Bush s judicial nominees.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) is the ringleader for the 30-hour debate, which has been dubbed by some Republicans as “Justice for Judges.” Democrats and others who oppose the four nominees, meanwhile, have responded by calling Mr. Bush to nominate “Judges for Justice.”

Senior senators planned to spend much of the night on the Senate floor or napping in their “hideaway” offices, which are tucked away in corridors near the main Senate chamber. Cots and blankets have been put in place in an anteroom near the Senate floor for more junior senators to bunk down during the Capitol sleep-over.

The 30-hour marathon marks the first time the Senate has been in session past 4 a.m. since 1992, when Sen. Alphonse D Amato (R., N.Y.) refused to let the Senate adjourn because of his opposition to a tax bill.

The focus of the debate this time is the Democrats decision to filibuster four U.S. Appeals Court nominees: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Texas judge Priscilla Owen, Mississippi judge Charles Pickering, and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada, who since has withdrawn his nomination. Democrats also have threatened to filibuster several other nominees, including California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown.

Republicans need 60 votes to approve the nominations and have not been able to get them in a Senate with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one independent. Democrats say they are using Senate rules to block nominees they believe are ideologically extreme, noting that 98 percent of Mr. Bush s nominees have been confirmed and that 68 of former President Clinton s nominees were never voted on because of Republican tactics.

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