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After two days of often testy but highly predictable debate, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown was confirmed 56-43 by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday afternoon for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. All of the Senate’s 55 Republicans voted for Brown. Perhaps the most conservative — and controversial — of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, Brown was opposed by all but one of the chamber’s 44 Democrats as well as by independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, who is recovering from surgery and was unable to vote. The lone Democratic renegade to vote for Brown was Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. Brown was one of three appellate court nominees whose confirmations were virtually preordained after a group of 14 moderate senators, including Nelson, reached a May 23 deal heading off a parliamentary maneuver by Republicans that might have ended the judicial filibuster. Under the agreement, its seven Democratic signatories agreed to cut off debate and hold an up-or-down vote on Brown, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. Owen was confirmed May 25 by a 55-43 vote and was sworn in Monday to the 5th Circuit. Two Democrats, Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, voted for Owen, while one Republican, Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, voted against her. Immediately after Brown’s confirmation, the Senate voted to end debate on the nomination of Pryor by a 67-32 margin. A vote to confirm Pryor, who was recess-appointed to the 11th Circuit last year by President Bush, will be held this afternoon. Earlier Wednesday, Senators voted 65-32 to end debate on Brown’s nomination in anticipation of the 5 p.m. vote.Brown, 56, was first nominated in July 2003. She, along with nine other Bush appellate appointees, was successfully filibustered in the last Congress. Brown has been roundly criticized by Democrats for her views on civil rights and property rights, although most of her cases on the D.C. Circuit will involve administrative and regulatory law. People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group that has vigorously opposed Brown, called her confirmation “disastrous” for the courts and the Constitution. “It is astonishing that a majority of Senators voted to confirm someone with such an extreme view of the Constitution and such a well-documented record of twisting the law to fit her own ideology,” the group said in a press release. Brown has also been castigated for flamboyant statements she made in several speeches, at one point calling the New Deal “the triumph of our socialist revolution.” It was a comment that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, alluded to during his floor speech Wednesday afternoon shortly before the vote: “Groups have keyed in on her colorful critique of the New Deal,” said Hatch. “Give me a break. The same people who come down here decrying Justice Brown’s description of the New Deal as revolutionary turn around five minutes later and claim our current Social Security system cannot be adjusted one iota to address contemporary concerns because it was central to the New Deal’s political revolution. . . . “Their real problem,” added Hatch, “is that Justice Brown then went on to criticize some of the unintended social and political consequences of big government.” But a host of Democratic detractors saw it differently, including the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont: “Justice Brown is a consummate judicial activist whose record shows that she favors rolling back the clock 100 years on workers’ and consumers’ rights and taking the side of corporations against average Americans,” he said in a floor speech that followed Hatch’s. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., conceded that Brown had made “undiplomatic statements, but she’s not in the State Department,” he noted. Brown, he said, has a “solid professional record, and that is the test [under which] she ought to be confirmed.”

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