WASHINGTON (ABP) — President Bush used a special presidential prerogative Jan. 16 to get one of his most controversial judicial nominees installed, temporarily, on a federal appeals panel.
Just days before Congress returned from its holiday recess to resume its legislative work, Bush used a “recess appointment” to get Charles Pickering installed as a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appointment took advantage of powers Bush has to install members of his administration whose nomination would normally require Congress' consent.
The appointment means Pickering will be able to remain in office for a year but will have to be confirmed by the next Congress, which will take office in January 2005.
Pickering's nomination is one of a handful that have been strongly opposed by Senate Democrats. They had filibustered Pickering's nomination on the urging of several civil-rights, abortion-rights, and church-state watchdog groups.
Pickering's opponents argued that the Mississippian was a conservative judicial activist who would roll back federal civil-rights protections. But his supporters — including much of Bush's conservative base — said Democrats had distorted the judge's record, particularly on racial issues.
Pickering is a member of the First Baptist Church of Laurel, Miss., and a former two-term president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. He also served on the Southern Baptist Convention Peace Committee, which attempted unsuccessfully to reconcile warring fundamentalist and moderate factions in the SBC.