WASHINGTON -- The GOP-controlled Senate yesterday approved former Alabama attorney general William Pryor and Michigan nominees David McKeague and Richard Griffin for seats on the US Appeals Court, completing an unprecedented run of long-delayed judicial confirmations.
By a vote of 53 to 45, Pryor was approved for the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the court based in Atlanta that handles federal appeals from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Griffin was confirmed, 95 to 0, and McKeague, 96 to 0, both for seats on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.
''These three nominees have waited a combined total of over eight years for their votes," President Bush said in a statement. ''I applaud the Senate for today giving these fine nominees the up-or-down votes they deserve."
Bush gave Pryor a recess appointment in February 2004 after Democrats filibustered his confirmation. That appointment would have ended this year if Pryor had not been confirmed. Bush said Pryor's service on the 11th Circuit built on a judicial career in which he ''has applied the law fairly and impartially to all people."
Pryor, 43, watched the vote over the Internet in his office in Birmingham, Ala. Aides brought out cake and champagne to celebrate. ''What a day," Pryor said. ''We even managed to get an opinion out."
The Senate confirmed three of Bush's most-wanted appellate nominees in less than three weeks after Senate centrists looking to avoid a partisan battle over judicial filibusters struck a deal.
Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, and Priscilla Owen all had been waiting at least two years for Senate confirmation. Democrats have blocked the nominations of judges they consider too conservative.
Democrats had blocked Griffin and McKeague because Michigan's senators were upset at Republicans for refusing to confirm President Clinton's nominees to that court. Democrats allowed them through as a good-will gesture.
Democrats had fought to keep Pryor from getting a permanent judgeship. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, sued to get Pryor removed because he felt Bush's recess appointment was illegal. The courts rejected Kennedy's argument.