A highly partisan and increasingly contentious showdown over President Bush's judicial choices appeared to be coming to a head Thursday, as two nominees blocked during his first team were up for final Senate Judiciary Committee approval. Democrats have declared their intention to continue filibustering Priscilla Owen of Texas and Janice Rogers Brown (above) of California. Majority leader Bill Frist (R), however, has threatened to ban filibusters to foil the Democrats, who blocked 10 nominees in Bush's first term. Three of them ultimately withdrew, the rest were renominated.

Bush also indicated he wasn't giving up on John Bolton, demanding that the Senate end stalled hearings to confirm his controversial nominee for US ambassador to the UN. He blamed political bickering for holding up confirmation of "the right man at the right time for this important assignment."

Saying it was time to "begin a new chapter" for himself and his state, US Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the chamber's lone unaffiliated member, announced Wednesday he won't seek reelection next year. In a decision that rankled Republicans, Jeffords quit the GOP four years ago, saying the party had "left" him. The move tipped control of the Senate to the Democrats.

While teen marijuana use has declined in the past year, from 42 percent to 37 percent, results of a new study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America revealed a troubling trend: the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including painkillers and cough syrups. More than 1 in 5 teenagers have abused a prescription painkiller - a higher percentage than has experimented with cocaine, LSD, or Ecstasy, the study showed.

Federal transportation officials are considering a measure to require all foreign airlines to submit passenger lists before flying through US airspace, The Washington Post reported. Currently, such lists are required only for flights landing in the US, but additional security could lessen the threat of hijackings.

A final House vote on a comprehensive energy bill with $8.1 billion in tax breaks for industrial development was expected Thursday, the day after a vote approving drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Acela Express, Amtrak's high-speed rail service, should be back in service this summer, officials said. Amtrak idled its 20 Acela trains after hairline cracks were discovered last week in 300 of the fleet's 1,440 disc brakes.

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