Sen. Hatch and Judiciary Committee Allies Sink to New Low

GOP Members Continue Unconscionable Claims of Religious Bias, Trash Committee Rules, Send Pryor Nomination to Senate Floor

On a party line vote and over the strenuous objections of Democratic senators, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent the appeals court nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the Senate floor in a meeting notable for Republican senators’ continued false claims of religious bias against Catholic judicial nominees and Senator Hatch’s refusal to abide by clear committee rules.

“Senator Hatch and his colleagues should be ashamed of their unconscionable behavior today,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Objections to Bill Pryor’s confirmation are broad and deep and grounded in his legal philosophy and his record as a public official. It is irresponsible and divisive for Sen. Hatch, Sen. Sessions, or anyone else to try to mischaracterize that opposition as grounded in religious bigotry. This is demagoguery at its worst.”

Neas urged the full Senate and President Bush to officially repudiate charges of religious bias that falsely suggest that Catholic nominees are being opposed because of their religious beliefs.

Neas also said that Hatch’s refusal to abide by committee rules in forcing a final vote over the unanimous objections of Committee Democrats continues Hatch’s pattern of abusing the power of his chairmanship by unilaterally ignoring rules and violating longstanding bipartisan traditions. Indeed, Sen. Hatch conceded that forcing a vote today contradicted his own interpretation of committee rules during the Clinton administration.

Democrats not only spoke forcefully about Pryor’s record, they also demanded time to complete a continuing bipartisan investigation of Pryor’s testimony about fundraising activities.

“Forcing a committee vote on Pryor in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the accuracy of Pryor’s testimony regarding questionable fundraising practices is just the latest example of Sen. Hatch’s disrespect for his colleagues, for the committee process, and for the Senate’s constitutional advise and consent responsibility,” said Neas.

Neas predicted a fierce fight against Pryor’s nomination on the Senate floor. “Pryor’s record demonstrates that he is committed to using the power of his office to push the law to the extreme right while sacrificing Americans’ rights, liberties, and interests. Once senators are fully informed of Pryor’s record, I believe that they will come to agree that his confirmation should be rejected,” Neas said. “Americans cannot afford to have someone of Pryor’s extreme ideology given a lifetime position on the federal bench. Senators should take all appropriate action to prevent Pryor from being confirmed.”

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