A Senate vote to cut off debate on the nomination of right-wing Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to garner the 60 votes necessary on July 31. Only two Democrats, Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson from Nebraska, voted with the Republicans to end debate in the 53 to 44 vote. The Senate is in recess until Sept. 2.

It’s not just Democrats who oppose Pryor. Gay and lesbian GOP members have opposed Pryor for his opposition to their issues. “We continue to urge the Bush administration to select open-minded and fair jurists to be placed on the federal bench. We believe Mr. Pryor does not meet that criteria,” said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay and lesbian organization.

The liberal group, People for the American Way, (PFAW) said, “Pryor’s right-wing ideology is far outside the mainstream of American legal thought.” PFAW, President Ralph G. Neas said Pryor was one of Bush’s “most dangerous judicial nominees.”

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the AFL-CIO called Pryor “an ideologically-driven activist with views outside the mainstream that are hostile to the interests of … working men and women.” The AFL-CIO said Pryor has consistently opposed “uniform protection covering the states in areas such as employment discrimination, environmental protection, and other basic rights.”

The National Organization for Women (NOW) accused Bush of continuing a process of “court stacking” with his nomination of Pryor whose “record is particularly heinous on women’s rights.” NOW stated, “He has used his political office as attorney general of Alabama to advance his partisan and ideological right-wing views,” including against a woman’s right to choose.

Pryor’s positions on civil rights issues have also been the subject of controversy. He has advocated against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by urging Congress to repeal sections that deal with enforcement. Pryor also believes that gays and lesbians have no privacy or equal protection rights.

The White House and Republican leadership have accused the Democrats of being anti-Catholic because they say that Pryor’s position come from the religious teachings of his church. Democratic Patrick Leahy of Vermont, himself a Catholic, called the charges of religious bias “despicable.”

For those Republicans that say the Democrats are out to torpedo Bush’s judicial nominees, Leahy responded, “There are at least five judicial nominations … who would be confirmed by overwhelming votes.” The Senate has confirmed 140 of President Bush’s candidates for federal judgeships.

The author can be reached at j.a.cruz@comcast.net

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