Yesterday was a sad day in the U.S. Senate, as Judiciary Committee Democrats denied Texas Judge Priscilla Owen a Senate hearing in which her 5th Circuit appointment would have been confirmed. The Democrats announced that as long as they control the Judiciary Committee, they will allow nominations only of liberal judges, a position that has never before been taken by either party. Judge Owen’s defeat marked the first time in history that a judge ranked as “well qualified” by the liberal American Bar Association has not been allowed out of committee. The Democrats have launched an unprecedented attack on the President’s Constitutional power to fill vacancies in the Federal judiciary. Will anyone care? Voters in Texas might. In a state where every official elected statewide is a Republican, Attorney General John Cornyn is locked in a surprisingly tough Senate race against former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. Texas voters may see the Democrats’ rejection of Judge Owen as reminiscent of their refusal to confirm Judge Clement Haynsworth, President Nixon’s 1969 Supreme Court appointee, simply because he was a southerner. The Democrats’ contemptible treatment of Judge Haynsworth–like Judge Owen, a respected and relatively apolitical jurist–was a key milestone in the conversion of the South from Democratic bastion to Republican stronghold. Maybe history will repeat itself in Texas.
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