Pryor Appointed to Appeals Bench

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President Bush Friday installed Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush said the U.S. Senate had unfairly blocked him and other White House nominees.

The President said a minority of Democratic senators has been using "unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified nominees from receiving up-or-down votes.''

Bush said their tactics are "inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system.''

Pryor, 41, was immediately sworn in during a private ceremony in Montgomery federal court, giving up his attorney general post.

The White House had begun informing senators this afternoon of Bush's intention. The recess appointment, which will last only until the end of 2005, was the second Bush has used to sidestep Democrats who have mounted successful filibusters against Pryor and five other appeals court nominees.

Last month, the President used a similar appointment to promote Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bush chose Pryor last April for a seat on the 11th Circuit that covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Abortion rights advocates immediately mounted a campaign against him, citing Pryor's criticism of the Supreme Court's Roe versus Wade decision that said women had a constitutional right to terminate pregnancy. Pryor is Catholic.

Republicans have been unsuccessful in five attempts, the last one in November, at breaking through the parliamentary blockade that Democrats erected against Pryor's nomination.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, accused Bush of using a recess appointment to bolster himself with Republican conservatives before the fall election. Schumer said "regularly circumventing the advice and consent process is not the way to change the tone in Washington.''

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said, "Actions like this show the American people that this White House will stop at nothing to try to turn the independent federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party.''

But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said the Pryor appointment was "a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster.''

Cornyn said Pryor is "very qualified, highly professional nominee who has a proven track record of enforcing the law, rather than his own personal agenda.''

Pryor described his move to a federal appeals court as bittersweet. He resigned as Alabama's attorney general Friday before he was sworn in to the federal judgeship.

Pryor said he loved being attorney general for more than seven years and he will miss the tremendous challenges of the office, but Pryor says he's also grateful for the opportunity to serve on an appellate court that is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.