Now that Texas judge Priscilla Owen and California judge Janice Rogers Brown have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has two nominees to push forward in his battle against Democratic filibusters that conservatives hope their allies will rally around.
"We have now the vehicle. We have two qualified women. They have met every test," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
An internal Republican poll showed that Frist's plan to ban judicial filibusters might not be as popular as they had hoped.
Frist, strongly backed by conservatives in and out of the Senate, has threatened to employ a parliamentary tactic — requiring only a majority vote — to change Senate practices on judicial filibusters. Republicans hold 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, and Vice President Dick Cheney would be available to break a tie if necessary.
Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada commands a solid block of 45 votes against the proposal, and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have publicly stated their opposition as well. A few GOP lawmakers are uncommitted, and Reid said this week that if Frist calls a vote, "it's going to be very close."
GOP polling shows 37 percent support for the GOP plan to deny Democrats the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, while 51 percent oppose, officials said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Several officials who attended the polling briefing said the survey also contained encouraging news for Republicans. The poll found more than 80 percent of those surveyed believed all judicial nominees deserve a yes-or-no vote.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the survey data has not been made public.
Republicans say negative polling numbers wouldn't deter them. "Polling on this issue is not going to make a difference. We are going to try to do what's right," Hutchison said.