Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor, whose public opposition to gay rights has angered gay activists, will have to wait at least another week to find out whether a Senate panel will recommend him to fill a vacancy on a federal appeals court. The Senate Judiciary Committee deferred a vote Thursday on Pryor's nomination to the 11th circuit court of appeals primarily because its agenda was crowded with debate on legislation. Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who sits on the panel, said the one-week delay shouldn't indicate that Pryor lacks the committee votes to refer his nomination to the floor. "Nothing in the Senate runs on time, but we hope to move his nomination next week," Sessions said. In Montgomery, where he gave a speech at a state trooper class graduation,
Pryor said he's not worried about what may happen in Washington because "I enjoy being attorney general," a post he has held since January 1997.
Pryor's committee vote almost certainly will be 10-9 one way or the other, with 10 Republicans and nine Democrats on the panel. The key swing vote could be Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, who told the Associated Press Wednesday that he was still undecided. Republicans have expressed confidence that Specter, who is up for reelection next year, will ultimately vote for him.
In a committee hearing last month, Specter asked several pointed questions of Pryor concerning his stands in favor of eliminating abortion, repealing part of the Civil Rights Act, and overturning the Family Leave Act. Specter supports abortion and gay rights, which Pryor opposes, but has said he won't use the issues as a litmus test for his vote. A Judiciary Committee vote on Pryor was originally scheduled for last month but rescheduled for Thursday. Such delays are common for judiciary appointments, particularly controversial ones. Several gay rights groups have strongly urged senators not to confirm Pryor for the seat on the appeals court, which is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.