WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 49 to 49 today to confirm President Reagan's controversial nominee, Daniel Manion, for a federal appellate judgeship.
Vice President George Bush, as president of the Senate, cast a tie-breaking vote for the nomination, making it 50 to 49, although his vote was not necessary.
"On this vote, the ayes are 49, the nays are 49," Bush said in voting. "The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes nay and the motion to reconsider is not agreed to."
But Bush did not need to vote as the tie had the effect of sustaining the Senate's earlier confirmation of Manion.
On June 26, the Senate voted 48 to 46 to confirm Manion to a seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who opposed the nomination, voted for it in a parliamentary maneuver and then moved to reconsider the vote at a later date.
Today, the Senate defeated the motion to reconsider.
Opponents argued that Manion, a conservative Indiana lawyer, is professionally unqualified for the judgeship. Republicans said he was being attacked only because of his conservative ideology.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hailed the Senate's refusal to reopen the Manion nomination.
"I am pleased that the Senate has affirmed the confirmation of Daniel Manion to be a judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals," Thurmond said in a statement issued shortly after the vote. "He is a good man, he is qualified and he has the integrity and intelligence that will make him a fine federal judge."
Manion "falls so clearly short of the mark" of qualifications needed for a federal judge, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) argued during the brief debate before the vote.
"He has had almost no experience in federal courts. His briefs in state courts border on the illiterate."
Manion, son of the late Clarence Manion, a founder of the John Birch Society, has been criticized by liberal groups for his staunchly conservative views. More than 40 law school deans signed a letter stating that he is professionally unqualified for a federal judgeship.
Manion received a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Assn., the lowest passing grade given by the group's judicial screening panel.
Sen. Daniel J. Evans (R-Wash.), one of four Republicans who voted against Manion last month, voted against reconsideration of the Manion nomination. In announcing his position Tuesday, Evans said he thinks the Senate should reconsider votes only in rare circumstances. Evans said the Manion nomination did not qualify in his mind for another vote.
The vote had been threatened by the sudden hospitalization of Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), who went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center early today for what his aides called a bad case of indigestion after dining on seafood.
But Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) abstained from the voting to "pair" his vote with Goldwater's.