WASHINGTON -- The GOP-controlled Senate yesterday ended a nearly two-year Democratic filibuster of California judge Janice Rogers Brown, putting her on track to become the second black woman on what many people consider to be the nation's second highest court.
The 65-to-32 vote virtually assures the conservative jurist and Alabama native's confirmation today to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, part of a historic deal to avert a partisan showdown over judicial filibusters.
It takes 60 votes to bypass a filibuster. In November 2003, Brown's Republican supporters were able to get only 53 votes for the California Supreme Court justice.
Brown was one of three benefactors of a deal by centrist senators that forced a compromise between Republicans and Democrats battling over President Bush's judicial nominees.
Republicans have argued that Brown was worthy of confirmation to a court viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. The District of Columbia appellate court decides important government cases involving separation of powers and the authority of federal agencies.
''Her presence on the federal bench will advance the cause of conservative judicial philosophy," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, one of the Senate centrists who brokered the deal that will get Brown confirmed. ''She will be an ideal conservative judge who follows the law and does not legislate from the bench."
Democrats have been blocking Brown because they see her as a conservative judicial activist who ignores the law in favor of her own political views. They are critical of her record as a jurist who supported limits on abortion rights and corporate liability and opposed affirmative action.
''Janice Rogers Brown is one of President Bush's most ideological and extreme judicial nominees," said Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.
Last month, Senate centrists agreed to confirm Brown and two other controversial nominees -- William Pryor of Alabama and Priscilla Owen of Texas -- to avoid a fight over the judicial filibuster. Owen, a longtime member of the Texas Supreme Court, was sworn in Monday as a judge on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth District in New Orleans.
Seven Democrats and seven Republicans signed the pact pledging not to filibuster judicial nominees except in ''extraordinary" circumstances. At the same time, they agreed to oppose attempts by GOP leaders to change filibuster procedures. Up to four of Bush's nominees to federal appeals courts could be confirmed before the end of the week -- Pryor, nominated to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta; Michigan nominees David McKeague and Richard Griffin, nominated to the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati; and Brown.