The Associated Press
WASHINGTON Feb. 20 — Bypassing angry Senate Democrats, President Bush installed Alabama Attorney General William Pryor as a U.S. appeals court judge on Friday in his second "recess appointment" of a controversial nominee in five weeks.
Pryor's federal appointment has been vigorously opposed by Democratic senators who have objected to his past comments and writings on abortion and homosexuality.
Bush praised Pryor as a "leading American lawyer" and said he had been pushed past the Senate's normal confirmation process because of "unprecedented obstructionist tactics" against Pryor and five other nominees.
The president said of the Democratic blockers: "Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system."
Pryor was immediately sworn in in Alabama by another 11th Circuit judge.
The Constitution gives the president authority to install nominees in office when Congress is not in session. Both houses were out this week for the Presidents Day holiday. But the appointments are good only until the end of the next session of Congress, in this case the end of 2005.
Last month, Bush used a similar appointment to promote Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush said Pryor's "impressive record demonstrates his devotion to the rule of law and to treating all people equally under the law."
However, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said none of Bush's nominees is more controversial than Pryor.
"Actions like this show the American people that this White House will stop at nothing to try to turn the independent federal judiciary into an arm of the Republican Party," Leahy said.
Democratic presidential contender John Edwards said Pryor "has a long record of vigorous efforts to deny Americans' basic rights under our laws."
"This is one more example of why we need a new president," said Edwards, D-N.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the appointment was "a constitutional response to an unconstitutional filibuster."
"I've always heard that when you have nothing else to say, you call people names," Cornyn said. "That's apparently what Democrats are now resorting to, just name calling. Bill Pryor is a very qualified, highly professional nominee who has a proven track record of enforcing the law, rather than his own personal agenda."
Bush picked Pryor last April for a seat on the 11th Circuit that covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Abortion rights advocates immediately mounted a campaign against the nominee, citing his criticism of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that said women had a constitutional right to terminate pregnancy.
Pryor also came under fire for filing a Supreme Court brief in a Texas sodomy case comparing homosexual acts to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia."
Republicans have been unsuccessful in five attempts, the last one in November, at breaking through the parliamentary blockade that Democrats erected against Pryor's nomination.
Pryor, 41, is a founder of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which raises money for GOP attorneys general.
Besides Pickering and Pryor, Democrats also have used filibusters to block Bush's appeals court nominations of Judge Priscilla Owen, Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada and judges Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown. Estrada withdrew his nomination in September.
While Pryor didn't speak to reporters Friday, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a close friend and Pryor's predecessor as Alabama's attorney general, said he had talked to him on the phone and found him to be "very comfortable with the situation."
Many Alabama Republicans remain angry at Pryor for leading the charge to oust the state's chief justice, Roy Moore, for refusing to abide by federal court orders requiring him to move a Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse.
Supporters hope almost two years on the federal appeals court will prove to Democrats that Pryor, as they say he showed in the Ten Commandments case, is willing to look at more than one side of an issue.
Associated Press reporter Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this story.