Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, intends this week to call up for a vote the first of the blocked nominees — Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judge Janice Rogers Brown. Bush nominated both for federal judgeships during his first term, but they and five others were blocked by Democrats.
Should Democrats move this week to block either Brown or Owen, and Republicans fail to break the filibuster, Frist then would call for the Senate to vote on whether to ban use of filibusters against judicial nominees.
Although both sides said they had the votes to prevail, they acknowledged that several middle-of-the-road Republicans had yet to say publicly how they would vote.
“I haven’t given up on the possibility that we might have 60 votes, including some Democrats who’ve been whispering in our ears that they believe that this ought to be defused,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, the chief GOP vote counter, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Republicans hold 55 seats in the 100-member Senate. Democrats have 44, plus one Democrat-leaning independent.
Frist needs a minimum of 50 votes to abolish judicial filibusters. Vice President Dick Cheney would provide the tie-breaking vote in his constitutional role as president of the Senate.