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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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Salazar slams Focus
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Senator calls group's political tactics over judges 'un-Christian'

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer, Rocky Mountain News
April 21, 2005

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., lashed out at Focus on the Family
on Thursday, saying the group is using "un-Christian" political tactics in
the fight over White House judicial appointments.

Salazar defended Democrats' right to filibuster what they consider
objectionable nominees and blasted the Colorado Springs-based evangelical
Christian group for recent ads urging him to "STOP the nonsense."

  "I do think that what has happened here is there has been a hijacking of
the U.S. Senate by what I call the religious right wing of the country,"
Salazar said at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.

He singled out Focus on the Family by name, objecting to full-page
newspaper ads that the ministry's political arm recently placed, targeting
20 senators in 15 states.

"I think what has happened is Focus on the Family has been hijacking
Christianity and become an appendage of the Republican Party," Salazar
said in an interview. "I think it's using Christianity and religion in a
very unprincipled way."

A Focus on the Family spokesman fired back, saying Salazar was siding with
liberal Democrats who have questioned some judicial nominees about their
strong religious views and stalled nominations.

"I'm flabbergasted the senator would call our Christianity into question,"
said Tom Minnery, the group's vice president of public policy.

"Some of the nominees will be filibustered by the Democrats because of
their religious views. As a Catholic, I would think the senator would be
especially alarmed about the anti-Catholicism of some of his colleagues."

Judicial appointments have been a key issue for evangelical Christian
groups, who blame judges for not enforcing decency standards, denying
public displays of the Ten Commandments or recently refusing to reinstate
a feeding tube for Florida hospital patient Terri Schiavo.

There has been heated rhetoric from all sides this month, as Senate
Republicans threaten to seek rule changes giving all judicial nominees a
right to an up-or-down vote. As things stand, the minority party can use
filibuster procedures to delay an appointment indefinitely unless there
are 60 votes to proceed.

If Republicans change the rules, Democrats say, they might bring other
legislative work to a standstill.

At a press conference with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Salazar said it
was wrong for Republicans to end rules that have worked in the U.S. Senate
for two centuries. Democrats called it the "nuclear option" because they
consider it so drastic.

"Ninety-six percent of his appointees have been confirmed, and yet the
president and (Senate) Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) have advocated
breaking the rules, trying to get 100 percent," Salazar said.

Republicans accuse Salazar of abandoning a promise from last year's
election campaign.

Then, Salazar told the Rocky Mountain News editorial board that he favored
giving all of President Bush's judicial nominees an up-or- down vote.

"It's a shame that only months after being sworn in for senator for the
state of Colorado, Ken Salazar is already turning his back on voters,"
said Danny Diaz, a Republican National Committee spokesman.

Salazar did not dispute making the campaign pledge.

He said he has since learned how traditional filibuster rules help make
sure lifetime judicial appointees have at least some support from both
political parties.

"I strongly believe there ought to be a bipartisan approach to how we
consider judges in the U.S. Senate," Salazar said.

If Republicans back down from the proposed rule changes, Salazar and
Lieberman said, they would consider voting to approve some of the most
controversial nominees whose nominations have been stalled.

When he was Colorado attorney general, Salazar signed a letter endorsing
one of the nominees, William Myers of Idaho. Now that he is a senator,
Salazar said, he will have to review the records of Myers and other before
deciding how to vote.

Minnery argues that the president "deserves the right to have his
qualified nominees confirmed."

"We sure hoped to have good relations with him," he said of Salazar. "By
joining the left-wing leadership of his party as he has, I'm not hopeful."
Last updated: April, 2005