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Democrats smash filibuster against Obama court nominee

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Tuesday crushed a Senate filibuster against a controversial appeals court nominee, demonstrating to Republicans that they can't stop President Barack Obama from turning the federal judiciary to the left.

The 70-29 vote limited debate over the qualifications of U.S. District Judge David Hamilton of Indiana and assured his elevation to the Chicago-based appeals court. Sixty votes were needed to end the filibuster, but confirmation only requires a simple majority of the 100-member Senate.

Ten Republicans repudiated their own party leaders and voted to limit debate. The Obama administration made a crucial decision from the outset by getting the support of Hamilton's home-state Republican senator, Richard Lugar.

The vote emphatically warned Republicans that with only 40 senators, they're too outnumbered to prevent Obama from making major inroads into a judiciary that was populated over eight years with conservative judges chosen by President George W. Bush.

Republicans have objected to holding a vote on Hamilton's confirmation since June, when the Judiciary Committee reported his nomination favorably to the full Senate.

Conservative Republican senators and their judicial-watching outside groups then launched a major political assault on Hamilton. They criticized his rulings against Christian prayers in the Indiana Legislature and against a menorah in the Indiana Municipal Building's holiday display.

Conservatives were furious that Hamilton struck down part of an Indiana law requiring women to make two trips to a clinic for counseling before they could get an abortion. He said the requirement placed an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to choose to end a pregnancy.

Prison upgrade funds unblocked

The Senate thwarted an effort on Tuesday to block spending for upgrading facilities in the United States for housing prisoners transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a move that Illinois officials feared could have complicated efforts to place detainees at a prison in their state. The measure was defeated on a mostly party-line vote of 57-43.

100 to 0 in favor of vets care

The Senate on Tuesday passed, by a rare 100-0 vote, a $134 billion spending bill for veterans programs and military construction projects. The measure awards a 9 percent increase over last year's budget for veterans health care. The House passed a companion measure this summer.

Obama grants interview to Fox

President Barack Obama will give an interview to Fox News Channel's Major Garrett, perhaps signaling a thaw in relations between the network and administration. Garrett will be included among a round of network interviews that the president is giving today in Beijing.

Democrats smash filibuster against Obama court nominee 11/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 11:22pm]

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