Evangelist Pat Robertson indicated Tuesday that if Senate majority leader Bill Frist expects to receive the backing of religious conservatives for a possible 2008 presidential bid, he had better get President Bush's judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate--or at least voted on. "It is the ultimate test," Robertson said at the National Press Club. "He cannot be a leader and allow Democrats to do what they did in the last session."
The Democrats' ability to stall White House picks for the federal bench was one of the most contentious issues of Bush's first term. With a Senate comprising 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and a Democrat-leaning independent, Democrats still have the 40 votes necessary to uphold a filibuster and block a vote on a nominee by the full Senate. In the case of a vote by the full Senate on a nominee, a simple majority would be needed for confirmation. "To the evangelicals, that is the number 1 consideration," Robertson said, saying "unelected judges" are largely responsible for laws on abortion, same-sex marriage, and Internet pornography.
Bush has sent judicial nominations back to the Senate that were blocked in his first term, assuring another fierce fight. Among them is antigay former Alabama attorney general William H. Pryor, who Bush has nominated for a lifetime seat on the 11th U.S. circuit court of appeals. Pryor was the only attorney general outside Texas to author an amicus brief in the Supreme Court defending Texas's antigay sodomy statute during the hearings for Lawrence v. Texas and, in particular, a state's interest in singling out same-sex relations for punishment, even though his own state's statute made no distinction between same- and opposite-sex relations. That same brief also compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia.