WASHINGTON (July 10, 2004) - - Over the objections of pro-abortion advocacy groups, the U.S. Senate by a close vote confirmed J. Leon Holmes, a prominent Arkansas lawyer and former president of Arkansas Right to Life, to a federal judgeship.
President Bush last year nominated Holmes for a lifetime seat as a federal district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pro-abortion groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood mounted a campaign urging the Senate to reject his confirmation.
In a long-awaited roll call on July 6, the Senate confirmed Holmes' nomination on a 51-46 vote.
Holmes, now 53, served as president of Arkansas Right to Life for a time in the 1980s. Holmes later became one of the most prominent trial and appellate lawyers in Arkansas.
Holmes was originally recommended for a federal judgeship in 2002 by Senator Tim Hutchinson, a Republican. Hutchinson lost his re-election bid that year, but when President Bush nominated Holmes in early 2003, the nomination was supported by both newly elected Senator Mark Pryor and by the state's senior senator, Blanche Lambert Lincoln, both Democrats.
The American Bar Association rated Holmes "well qualified" for the job, its highest rating. However, the nomination was promptly attacked by various pro-abortion advocacy groups.
Republicans currently hold a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate. On the July 6 roll call on confirmation, five Republican senators voted against Holmes: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and John Warner of Virginia. However, those defections were more than offset by the support of six Democrats: Pryor and Lincoln, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and John Breaux and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Three senators were absent for the vote: Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, and Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL, lamented the Senate vote, saying that Holmes was "one of Bush's worst picks," a "dangerous ideologue" who would now be allowed to "make rulings over women's reproductive rights and fundamental freedoms for a generation to come." Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commented, "Holmes' record and rhetoric make him unfit for the federal bench. He's worked throughout his career to erode women's rights, and to eradicate reproductive rights entirely."
NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson commented, "The nasty campaign against Leon Holmes, despite his outstanding qualifications, is yet another illustration of how pro-abortion groups are trying to make allegiance to their ideological agenda into a basic requirement for confirmation to the federal courts. Ongoing filibusters by Senate Democrats, dictated by these same groups, have blocked confirmation votes on six of President Bush's nominations to U.S. courts of appeals - - and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has pledged to nominate only pro-abortion jurists to the U.S. Supreme Court."