JCPA Drops Controversial Resolutions

Published February 11, 2005, issue of February 11, 2005.
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In a blow to liberal activists, a key council that coordinates the policies of American Jewish organizations is declining to vote on a controversial resolution against a Senate procedure that seeks to limit debate on President Bush’s judicial nominees.

The controversial resolution would put the council’s member-organizations on record opposing a Senate Republican bill known as the “nuclear option.” The Senate bill would allow majority Republicans to end Democratic filibustering of conservative Bush nominees to the federal bench. The resolution opposing the bill was submitted to the Jewish policy council by the National Council of Jewish Women, a liberal group fearing Bush judicial picks will curtail abortion rights.

The policy group, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, coordinates the policy activities of a dozen major groups including the three main synagogue unions, the three largest Jewish civil-rights groups and mass-membership groups like Hadassah and the women’s council.

That resolution on filibusters is one of several submitted by liberals to the council’s national meeting, the plenum, scheduled for February 26 to March 1 in Washington, D.C. Another opposes the GOP-backed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban gay marriage.

The resolutions’ sponsors have been predicting for months that they would pass, but the filibuster resolution, in particular, met stern resistance, both from groups reluctant to weigh in on judicial nominations and from Republicans, who said it amounted to the Jewish community endorsing the Democrats.

The council’s resolutions committee decided Monday to defer the resolutions to task forces, barring open debate unless the sponsoring agencies get a two-thirds majority to force a floor vote, said the council’s outgoing executive director, Hannah Rosenthal. The next chance the resolutions have to come up for a vote is in June.

The national vice president of the Jewish women’s council, Nancy Kipnis, said the fililbustser ban amounted to “changing the rules of democracy midstream” and the resolution condemning it “was not a partisan matter.”

The resolution against the nuclear option was opposed by the Orthodox Union and other groups. The O.U., along with the Conservative synagogue movement, led the opposition to the anti-Federal Marriage Amendment resolution.

The director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, Nathan Diament, said the organization “has a general policy of not intervening in confirmation battles” and the anti-nuclear option resolution “is a stalking horse for that fight.” He said “the definition of marriage is clearly a religious issue and therefore wholly inappropriate for JCPA except if there is a consensus across streams.”

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