Senate Republicans Thursday failed to break a Democratic filibuster of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering's nomination to the federal appeals court, continuing a two-year standoff tinged with accusations of racial, religious and regional politics.
Pickering, a Mississippi federal judge chosen by President Bush for a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, has been accused by Democrats of supporting segregation. He also has been accused of pushing anti-abortion and anti-voting rights views during his time as a state lawmaker.
Republicans have countered that Pickering advocated voting rights for blacks in the 1960s and led integration efforts in the 1970s and 1980s. His supporters charged that his nomination has become a victim of an anti-Baptist, anti-Southern prejudice among many Democrats.
The GOP needed 60 votes to break the filibuster, but the final vote was 54-43. The Republicans have yet to break a Democratic filibuster this year.
Mississippi Republican, Sen. Trent Lott said he was very disappointed in the vote.
"It's not over yet. I've spoken to the White House. The President continues to support Judge Pickering," said Lott. "I've spoken to Judge Pickering and he's prepared to leave his name before the senate for consideration because I hope the senate will stop these fillibusters."
Lott called Thursday's action one of the low points in the history of the United States Senate.
Pickering's supporters say he is the victim of a liberal smear campaign. The Fifth Circuit handles appeals from Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.