Filibuster

The Debate Must Go On Until Miranda Is Satisfied

Today, Manuel Miranda took to the pages of The American Spectator to decry all the misinformation surrounding his Third Branch Conference's call for a filibuster of Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination.

Miranda insists that he and his are not calling for an "obstructive filibuster" of the sort Democrats used against George W. Bush's nominees but rather a "traditional filibuster" that would allow for a "spectacular" debate that will allow the GOP to stake out and explain its position on the issue of judicial philosophy:

Republican opportunity for statecraft is in ensuring that debates on the Senate floor are not business-as-usual, but rather an inspired effort to highlight the issues that both define and divide us as a people. Even Republican senators who vote to confirm the judge can sound an alarm by explaining the risk of any more justices influenced by bias.

The emphasis is not on time. A great debate does not have to be long. But it should be spectacular; enough to illuminate what is at stake. We have seen such effort from Republicans before. It is possible.

The only thing missing from this is any sort of explanation of just what differentiates an "obstructive" filibuster from a "traditional" filibuster.  Miranda and company insist that they merely want to ensure that Republican Senators have enough time to make their "spectacular" case and that, when they are finished, a vote on Sotomayor's confirmation will be granted.

But how long exactly this "debate" should last is completely unknown.  Do they need several hours, or several days, or several weeks?  Having some sense of just how long these right-wing activists expect Republican Senators to be given to make their case before allowing a floor vote on the nomination would be a useful thing to know.  

But, as it stands now, nobody has any idea about how much time Miranda thinks is necessary, leaving us to assume that he simply wants Republicans to just drag out the process for some indeterminate length until such a time as considers himself satisfied that a proper debate has been had. 

And, of course, it's pretty safe to predict that whatever amount of time Republicans are given to "debate" this nomination, it will be deemed unsatisfactory by the likes of Miranda and company, which will in turn justify their demand to hold up Sotomayor's nomination.  And all the while, they will be claiming that they are merely engaging in a "traditional" filibuster while they, in actuality, actively obstruct her confirmation.

It is entirely possible that we will see Miranda and his Senate allies eventually calling for an "obstructive" filibuster of Sotomayor's nomination and justifying it by claiming that they were denied an opportunity to carry out their "traditional" filibuster of her nomination.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Steve Benen reports that S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford has apparently been found. I thought for sure he had "gone Galt."
  • David Weigel reports that Rick Santorum doesn't think Republicans should try to filibuster Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Speaking of Sotomayor, Jamison Foser points out that the Washington Times seems to be taking an active role in opposing her nomination.
  • TPM reviews the new Michelle Bachmann comic book.
  • Autumn Sandeen notes that the Traditional Values Coalition continues to use the pejorative "she-male" when it discusses transgender issues.
  • Campus Progress offers this profile of Randall Terry.
  • Think Progress notes that Obama and Hitler have a lot in common, at least according to the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County.

Sen. DeMint: The Right's Man In Washington

Currently, the Religious Right does not have a great deal of influence on Capitol Hill.  Gone are the days when Republican leaders like Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, or Bill Frist would regularly attend the Right's gatherings and, considering that some members of the movement have even had a falling-out with allies like Sen. Sam Brownback, the lack of leadership for the Religious Right's agenda in Congress has been particularly noticeable as of late.

But never fear, because Sen. Jim DeMint has recently stepped-up big time and established himself as the Right's most committed and loyal advocate on the Hill.

A few months back, when the Right was trying to generate controversy over the stimulus legislation, DeMint took their complaints right onto the Senate floor and forced a vote on his effort  to strip an entirely non-controversial provision from the bill at the behest of right-wing groups like the American Center for Law and Justice. 

Earlier this month, we reported that DeMint was continuing to carry water for the Right, personally telling Rick Scarborough of Vision America that he would lead a filibuster against hate crimes legislation.  Today we have come to find out DeMint is now sending out a letter addressed to pastors and other religious leaders urging them to get active in helping him oppose the legislation.

Though the letter doesn't appear anywhere on his official website, it has been posted on Vision America's website and you can get a PDF copy here:

I am writing you today to remind you that religious principles and biblical teachings produced the values and policies that made America exceptional, prosperous, and good.

In recent decades, Congress and the courts have adopted policies that have proved destructive to faith, families, and freedom in America, but no one action has been as damaging as the "hate crimes" legislation will be. This hate crime legislation will replace "equal justice under law" with arbitrary justice based on the race, religion, or sexual orientation of criminals and their victims. More importantly, it will lead to the criminalization of biblical truth as "hate speech."

Under this legislation, a pastor who teaches that homosexuality is wrong could be accused of a hate crime or charged with "inducing" a violent crime against a gay person.

Please tell your congregation this legislation is not about "hate" (all violent crimes are hateful); it is about taking away your freedom to speak and preach biblical truth. It takes away your right to say that some things are wrong. We need millions of Americans to call and email their Senators, especially Democrat Senators who are pushing this legislation. Majority Leaders Harry Reid has promised to pass this legislation in the next few weeks (the House already has).

DeMint's letter concludes by urging recipients to visit the Family Research Council's website for more info and to contact their own senators to voice their opposition.

And because good things always comes in threes, today we also learned that DeMint has introduced the Parental Rights Amendment in Congress, which is the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, the so-called "Harvard for homeschoolers."

It seems pretty safe to assume that we'll be seeing a lot more of these types of things from DeMint in the future, as he has become the primary conduit through which the Religious Right's agenda makes its way in the halls of Congress.

The Right Joins Hands To Stop Hate Crimes Legislation

Last week we noted that Religious Right groups were planning on making a coordinated push to stop hate crimes legislation by threatening to "shut down the Capitol Switchboard to stop this dangerous bill that will criminalize Christianity and protect pedophiles."

Now, it looks like a variety of groups and leaders have done just that and banded together to send a letter to the Senate begging members to join their colleague Sen. Jim DeMint in filibustering the bill: 

This week, a letter is being hand-delivered to every member of the United States Senate imploring conservatives to join Senator Jim DeMint's filibuster of the pending Hate Crimes bill, which would criminalize preaching the Gospel and put preachers in the crosshairs.

The letter explains that, in its current form, the Hate Crimes legislation would: "Silence the moral voice of the Church" -- "Punish principled dissent from the homosexual agenda" -- "Be a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression" -- and "Empower the left and encourage it to move forward with even more radical measures."

The letter is signed by more than 60 conservative leaders, including some of the leading lights of the Values Voter movement, among them: James Dobson (Focus On The Family), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Gary Bauer (American Values), Hon. Tom DeLay (former Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Mat Staver (Liberty Counsel), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America) and Rick Scarborough (Vision America).

Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough commented: "We are urging Senators to join DeMint (R, SC) in filibustering this pernicious -- one might almost say 'toxic' -- legislation. As Values Voter leaders, we are saying this vicious assault on the Church and the First Amendment must not and will not be allowed to succeed."

The press release didn't include an actual copy of this letter, which is rather odd.  Presumably, the letter has not been finalized or sent yet but, when it is and it is made available publicly, we'll be sure to write it up.

DeMint Promises The Right That He Will Filibuster Hate Crimes Legislation

It seems that every time the Religious Right needs someone in Congress to take up their latest bogus crusade, they can inevitably rely on Sen. Jim DeMint.

Earlier this year, DeMint took up the Right's nonsense claim that the stimulus legislation was somehow "anti-Christian" and forced a vote on it on the Senate floor ... and now he is vowing to the Right that he will take the lead in opposing hate crimes legislation, even leading a filibuster if necessary:

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., today confirmed he will fight the "hate crimes" legislation pending in the U.S. Senate and, if necessary, will launch a filibuster against the plan that critics have dubbed the "Pedophile Protection Act."

His Washington office confirmed to WND his position today, shortly after several Christian activists who have been rallying opposition to the proposal said they had received word he would help.

...

Rick Scarborough of Vision America told WND DeMint had assured him he understood the issue and would use every delay tactic available to him as a senator.

"And if it gets to the floor," Scarborough said, "If it's necessary, he would filibuster. He said he would do that as a last resort."

"He told me, 'Rick, I'm used to being beaten up by the Left,'" Scarborough said.

Scarborough also said James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, also has agreed to work against the "hate crimes" plan, with possibly a radio program on it soon. Scarborough said the campaign will contact pastors in coming days, asking them to preach about the possible loss of their right to preach on biblical truths and what that would mean.

The endorsement by DeMint is a huge turnaround for the campaign against "hate crimes," which before today had not seen a single senator stand up and announce a formal opposition to the plan.

"Everyone else that we talked to either said or implied that it is a lost cause," Scarborough said.

But he noted the Old Testament story of King David, while still a youth, taking on the Philistines' champion Goliath.

"For every other warrior, the battle against the Philistines was unwinnable," he said. "David dropped what he was doing and when he did the whole nation got its courage."

"Jim DeMint is going to give a lot of courage to other senators out there," Scarborough said.

As we've explained a number of times before, just about every objection the Right has to hate crimes legislation is based on lies and misinformation.

But so was the "controversy" over the stimulus legislation and that didn't stop DeMint from echoing their claims then, and so it's unlikely that the falsity of their attacks will bother him this time around either.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • It's no wonder that Bill O'Reilly hates Media Matters - after all, they keep catching him lying.
  • Steve Benen comments on the straight party-line vote on David Hamilton in the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying "there's no real reward for nominating moderates. If the president selects obvious centrists" so "Obama might as well pick the best available people for the federal bench, without regard for the GOP reaction, because it's likely to be the same, no matter who he chooses."
  • Crooks and Liars posts video of Manuel Miranda and Andrea Lafferty having some trouble explaining their call for a filibuster against Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Think Progress reports that Rep. Lamar Smith has launched the Media Fairness Caucus aiming “to fight liberal media bias.”
  • Jeremy wants to know why GOProud signed onto the anti-Sotomayor letter along with a bunch of the right-wing's most anti-gay zealots. I'd suggest its because GOPround isn't really interested in gay rights anyway.

The History of Manuel Miranda

It seems that, after years of operating behind the scenes and under the radar, Manuel Miranda has returned to once again take a lead role in the judicial confirmation wars.

Just in the last few days, Miranda has burst back onto the scene, drafting a letter calling on Senate Republicans to filibuster Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, suggesting that Senator Mitch McConnell should resign if he can't wage a better fight to stop her and, just for good measure, saying that, unlike Blacks, Hispanics "think like everybody else," whatever that is supposed to mean.

As such, Miranda is now getting a lot of attention, especially regarding the history of how he was ousted from his position as a one-time aide to Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bill Frist only to re-emerge as a one-man judicial confirmation army. 

So now seems like a good time to dust off a report I wrote several years ago shortly after the results of the investigation by the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Senate was released, which chronicled Miranda's role in accessing internal Democratic memos regarding the issue of judicial nominations while he was working for Senators Hatch and Frist.

It was this behavior that caused Miranda to lose his job, though he has steadfastly denied any wrong-doing, consistently insisting that he was, in fact, a beacon of morality and ethics as he worked to expose Democratic "collusion" with outside interest groups.

Though the Senate report, known as the "Pickle Report" after Sergeant at Arms William Pickle, suggested that Miranda could have faced various charges for his behavior, he was never charged with any crime

As I suspect that most people barely even remember the "Memogate" controversy from 2003-2004 and aren't going to wade through the Pickle Report's 40 pages to figure out what went on, I've decided to post the report [PDF] I wrote at the time and excerpt this section covering the Pickle Report's findings on Miranda's activities:

The Pickle Report

While right-wing pundits and activists were busy defending Miranda and disparaging the investigation before knowing all the facts, Sergeant-at-Arms Pickle plowed ahead. Over the course of three months, Pickle and his staff interviewed over 160 individuals and conducted detailed “forensics analysis of the Judiciary Committee servers, available backup tapes, and the desktops of relevant staff members.” In March, Pickle finally completed his investigation and presented his report to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thanks to this report, we now know how the documents were obtained and who was responsible. We also know that nearly everything right-wing pundits said about the theft of the documents and the subsequent investigation was totally wrong.

As the report explains, in the fall of 2001 a Judiciary Committee Nomination Unit clerk, Jason Lundell, had learned how to access documents contained on Democratic computers by watching the System Administrator do some work on his computer and then duplicating the Administrator’s key strokes once he was alone. By doing so, he was able to gain access to the entire network and read, modify or delete Democratic documents because the newly hired and inexperienced system administrator had failed to restrict access to appropriate users.

Initially, Lundell downloaded between 100-200 pages of Democratic documents having to do with the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering and turned them over to two of his supervisors. Almost immediately both supervisors concluded that possessing such documents was improper and destroyed them and ordered Lundell to do the same and delete any files on his computer.

A short time later, Miranda joined the Committee staff as a counsel for the Nominations Unit. Not long after Miranda came on board, Lundell showed Miranda how to access the Democratic files but explained that he had been ordered not to use them. According to the Pickle Report, Miranda told Lundell not to listen to his supervisors and that there was nothing wrong or illegal about accessing Democratic files. Thus Miranda not only became the recipient of the Democratic documents, but a key figure in obtaining them, guiding Lundell about what information to look for and where to look.

From the fall of 2001 until January 2003, when Miranda left the Judiciary Committee to work for Senator Frist, he and Lundell downloaded several thousand internal Democratic documents and possibly shared them with other Republican staffers and the media. Miranda repeatedly requested files from Lundell even after he began working for Frist and thus no longer had access to the Judiciary Committee’s server. At one point Miranda even asked Lundell to “undertake a discreet mission” to gather documents and provide them to Sean Rushton, Executive Director of the Committee for Justice, so that he could build up a relationship with the press. Lundell replied that he would be “happy to assist in this covert action” and subsequently e-mailed Rushton 169 documents. Lundell and others speculated that Miranda himself also turned over documents to Rushton and others but Miranda denies this and it is impossible to know the truth as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the Committee for Justice and the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary all refused to cooperate with Mr. Pickle’s investigation. Despite this lack of cooperation, the Pickle Report does note that when the files showed up on the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary’s website, one of the documents contained a directory path that forensic review determined came from “an e-mail from a web page that was viewed and printed by Mr. Miranda with Internet Explorer.”

As for Miranda’s allegations that Democratic staffers on the committee were made aware that their documents were vulnerable, this too is contradicted by the report. Common sense dictates, and the report notes, that “[t]he Democratic staff working on judicial nominations clearly did not know there was a vulnerability. If they had, presumably they would have protected their files.” But beyond this, the allegation that the Democrats had been made aware of the problem seems to have come solely from Miranda himself. Miranda claims to have heard from Lundell that another staffer named Ryan Davis had informed the system administrator of the vulnerability. But Lundell denied ever telling Miranda this and Davis claimed that he did not recall ever having such a conversation with the administrator.

Furthermore, during the investigation, Miranda claimed to have kept printed versions of the documents that he considered the most valuable in a folder, which he asserted he had lost during his move to Frist’s office. It was not until his final interview with investigators that Miranda got around to informing them that a friend had made a “backup disk” for him of relevant Democratic documents. But Miranda refused to provide the friend’s name to investigators out of a stated desire not to prolong the investigation. As the Pickle Report concluded, the existence of the backup disk coupled with the claim that he “lost” his file containing Democratic documents “leaves open the possibility” that Miranda still “has Democratic documents in his possession.”

The Pickle Report concluded by outlining the “criteria for possible referrals for disciplinary action and for criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice,” noting that Miranda and others could potentially face prosecution for ethical violations, professional misconduct, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, lying to investigators and violating various criminal statutes.

Of course, Miranda disputed many of the report's findings at the time and will no doubt continue to do so even today. 

Nonetheless, the report, written in 2004, covers not only Miranda's dealings while working on the Hill, but his ties to the various right-wing media outlets and judicial groups who sought to use the ill-gotten internal Democratic memos for partisan purposes, and explains just how Miranda went from being an obscure Senate aide to the right-wing folk hero and leading crusader in the judicial confirmation wars we know today.

Manuel Miranda Makes Republican Enemies

Yesterday we noted that Manuel Miranda and his Third Branch Conference (formerly known as the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters) had returned and sent a letter to Republican Senators demanding that they carry out a "traditional filibuster" against Sonia Sotomayor.

Though the letter was signed by more than a hundred right-wing leaders and activists, Miranda is and always has been the leader of these efforts ... and now he's taking his demands one step further:

[I]n an interview with POLITICO, Manuel Miranda – who orchestrated the letter – went much farther, saying that Mitch McConnell should “consider resigning” as Senate minority leader if he can’t take a harder line on President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee.

Miranda accused McConnell of being “limp-wristed” and “a little bit tone deaf” when it comes to judicial nominees.

"Limp-wristed" seems to be Miranda's insult of choice when it comes to sitting US Senators, because it is the same term he used in attacking Sen. Orrin Hatch several years ago when Hatch refused to defend Miranda when he was forced to resign from his positon on the Hill when it was learned that he had improperly obtained hundreds of internal Democratic memos:

I do admit that reading Democrats' documents on an unprotected server to help defend the president's embattled nominees was political hardball, and I have learned that one shouldn't play hardball with a limp-wristed team captain. 

It seems as if Miranda is not only calling out leading Senators like McConnell, but other right-wing judicial groups as well:

Miranda also declined to ask the Judicial Confirmation Network, one of the leading conservative judicial groups, to sign on to his letter, calling the group “an arm of [Republican] leadership” in the Senate.

Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network said the group is not affiliated with the leadership and said she didn’t “really understand” the comment.

Now, we'll agree that the JCN is essentially an arm of the Senate Republicans, but they have also been among the most vocal critics of President Obama's judicial nominees David Hamilton and Sonia Sotomayor.  They've also led the charge against several of his Department of Justice nominees, including Dawn Johnsen David Ogden, and Elena Kagan.

While we obviously have fundamental disagreements with the Judicial Confirmation Network, nobody can deny that they have been leading the right-wing opposition to President Obama on these issues and have a far greater impact than does Miranda and his gaggle of letter-signers.  

And it seems as if Miranda's superiority complex is, not surprisingly, starting to alienate people:

Miranda, now the chairman of the conservative Third Branch Conference, served as counsel to McConnell’s predecessor, then-Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist. He left that job in 2004 amid allegations that he improperly accessed thousands of memos and emails from Democratic staffers – circumstances McConnell’s supporters recalled as they pushed back hard against Miranda’s arguments Monday.

“It’s unfortunate that one disgraced former employee of previous Senate leadership has decided to air out his grievances rather than join the conservative effort to examine Judge Sotomayor’s record,” said a senior GOP Senate aide. “Not only did this guy steal the Democrats’ playbook, he seems to be implementing it.”

When Is a Filibuster Not a Filibuster?

It looks like Manuel Miranda is back and up to his old tricks.  As I wrote back in 2006:

Ever since losing his job with Sen. Frist a few years ago, Manuel Miranda has refashioned himself as a one-man, right-wing force to be reckoned with on judicial nominations. Even before stepping down, Miranda was working behind the scenes, orchestrating the GOP’s 2003 “reverse filibuster” protest.

After a short-lived disgrace caused by his run-in with basic ethics, Miranda returned to the scene with the launching of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters, since renamed the Third Branch Conference. Since then, Miranda has been behind just about every right-wing grassroots effort to force confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

As the original name of his organization suggests, Miranda, along with dozens of other right-wing leaders, pushed Senate Republicans hard to eliminate the use of the filibuster via the “nuclear option.”

Back in 2005, Miranda was routinely drafting letters [pdf], which were signed by dozens of other right-wing leaders, calling on Republican Senators to do away with the filibuster of judicial nominees once and for all:

As the representatives of millions of American voices, we write to ask you to end the judicial filibusters at the earliest possible moment and well before a Supreme Court vacancy should occur.

We believe that short of a compromise that guarantees an up or down vote at the end of debate, the Constitutional Options available to you will serve to honor the Constitution, restore Senate tradition, and protect judicial independence.

We believe that generations of Americans are called at moments to lay foundations for the future, and that this is one such moment.

Well guess what?  Miranda is back with the same coalition but a new letter [PDF] with new demands - namely, that Senate Republicans carry out a filibuster against Sonia Sotomayor.  But not one of those disgusting "partisan" filibusters that the Democrats used, but rather one of those glorioius and noble" traditional" filibusters that protects the Constitution:

A Democratic Filibuster

There has been much distraction in discussing whether the Republican Minority would or could muster a “Democratic filibuster,” i.e., a filibuster used to obstruct a Senate confirmation vote. We recognize that Senate precedent has been altered by the systematic use of the “Democratic filibuster.”

...

We remind you that the Republican Party Platform, which almost all Republican Senators voted to adopt, establishes that you will not support a “stealth nominee” or a nominee who does not display fidelity to the Constitution.

Even so, no credible person, if any, has called on Senate Republicans to brandish a “Democratic filibuster.” We call on you instead to display leadership, if the nominee merits it, in preparing for the use of the traditional filibuster, not intended to obstruct, together with moderate Democrats, so that the debate on the Senate floor is appropriately long and, therefore, suitably catalyzed to the American people.

As Miranda explains it:

But in an interview, Mr. Miranda said their stance was not a contradiction because they want Republicans to use the procedural tactic for a different purpose than what he called a “Democratic filibuster.”

The Democrats, he said, sought to obstruct the Senate’s work by blocking confirmation votes on certain nominees forever. By contrast, he said, his coalition is seeking what he called a “traditional filibuster,” which would block the confirmation vote for some period of time but not forever.

“A Democratic filibuster is for the purpose of preventing a vote, as they brandished it,” Mr. Miranda said. “But a traditional filibuster to prolong debate is just fine.”

Do I need to point out the irony in the fact that the group once known as the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters is now explicitly calling for the use of a judicial filibuster?

I didn't think so.

Right Wing Reaction to Sotomayor

So, anything happen while I was on vacation? 

Oh yeah, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.  And guess what?  The Right already doesn't like her:

Family Research Council:

"President Obama has chosen a nominee with a compelling personal story over judicial pick with a solid constitutional judicial philosophy. A compelling personal story is no substitute for allegiance to the Constitution and its sound application to public life.

"Judge Sotomayor's failure to premise her decisions on the text of the Constitution has resulted in an extremely high rate of reversal before the high court to which she has been nominated.

"With that fact in mind Judge Sotomayor appears to subscribe to a very liberal judicial philosophy that considers it appropriate for judges to impose their personal views from the bench. President Obama promised us a jurist committed to the 'rule of law,' but, instead, he appears to have nominated a legislator to the Supreme Court.

Focus on the Family:

"From what we know about her, Judge Sotomayor considers policy-making to be among a judge’s roles, no matter what the law says," said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst at Focus on the Family Action. "She disregards the notion of judicial impartiality."

...

Hausknecht said: "The president's professed desire for judges with 'empathy' rather than impartiality might deny the country what the Founding Fathers intended and wrote into the Constitution — judges who dispense justice without regard for the status of any party that comes before them."

Traditional Values Coalition:

To no one’s surprise, President Obama has nominated an individual who supports his position of deciding cases based on who you are, rather than on the facts and the law. Although Sotomayor spoke strongly of the importance of the rule of law and principles of the Founding Fathers, her previous decisions contradict this, as do the previous statements and promises of President Obama.

...

Judge Sotomayor fits the “empathy” qualification. During a law conference, she has openly bragged that she views her role as a judge as a policymaker and activist who will impose her leftist political views on the rest of us. She may have empathy for the poor, gays and minorities – but she is likely to ignore the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. She is clearly the ideal nominee for President Obama but will be a disaster for our legal system.

Concerned Women for America:

CWA President Wendy Wright said, "A necessary quality for a Supreme Court justice is to be committed to equal treatment of the law, regardless of ethnicity or sex. Sonia Sotomayor has an extensive record and several troubling opinions where she seems willing to expand certain 'rights' beyond what the Constitution establishes and the appropriate Supreme Court precedent. Revealing her immodest bias, she stated that a 'Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.' Congress needs to thoroughly vet Judge Sotomayor and Americans deserve enough time to evaluate her record and her announced bias for certain people. Her high reversal rate alone should be enough for us to pause and take a good look at her record. Frankly, it is the Senate's duty to do so."

Mario Diaz, Esq., CWA's Policy Director for Legal Issues, said, "Much has been made in the media about a Hispanic woman being nominated, but the truth is that none of that should matter as the Senate fulfills its 'advise and consent' role. What matters are the judge's judicial temperament and her view of the Constitution. We must determine if Judge Sotomayor will respect the Constitution as written or legislate from the bench. She has made some disconcerting statements that should require everyone to examine her record with an open mind and reach some conclusions. For example, she said once that 'policy was made at the appellate level,' a very dangerous way of looking at the role of a judge for those of us who value our freedoms as guaranteed in the Constitution."

Judicial Confirmation Network:

"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.

"She reads racial preferences and quotas into the Constitution, even to the point of dishonoring those who preserve our public safety. On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America's firefighters in protecting our citizens. They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation. But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas. The Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision.

"She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

Committee for Justice:

Having told colleagues that I thought President Obama was too smart to pick someone with as much baggage as Sonia Sotomayor, I was surprised to learn of her nomination. Many other people were surprised as well, given both the widespread expectation that Obama would choose an intellectual heavyweight and Obama’s own recent statement that he would not make gender or race the major factors in his selection. Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley summed it up well on MSNBC yesterday, expressing bewilderment that Obama chose Sotomayor when heavyweights like “[Seventh Circuit Judge] Diane Wood would have met all his criteria.”

The only plausible explanation for Sotomayor’s selection is that the President was boxed in by demands from Hispanic and women’s groups that he pick one of their own. What else could explain his choice of a nominee who presents such a big target for conservatives and so clearly forces red state Democratic senators to choose between the values of their constituents and those of the nominee?

Priests for Life:

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, says he has just one question about Judge Sonia Sotomayor as she is nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court: "Does justice include the right to tear the arms and legs off of babies, crush their skulls, and treat them as medical waste?"

"We all draw the line somewhere. An avowed racist or anti-Semite is not acceptable on the Supreme Court. Why should we give a pass to the violence of abortion?"

Operation Rescue:

"Just as Obama has attempted to abuse the process of law in reshaping America to the far left, so too Sonia Sotomayor believes in the abuse of judicial authority having stated that courts can create social policy," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "This philosophy dangerously overreaches the duties of the judicial branch and flies in the face of the separation of powers doctrine."

"Sonia Sotomayor is a far left ideologue that blurs the lines between the legislature and judiciary and will surely be a rubber stamp for Obama's radical abortion agenda, which is opposed by the majority of Americans."

Organized for Life:

Peter Shinn, National Director of Organized for Life, commented that, "Sonia Sotomayor is out of step with the American people. Quoted in 2005 as believing that policy comes from the bench, she stands counter to the American people's desire to end the tragedy of abortion."

Ruben Obregon, President of Organized for Life, added, "In nominating Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama chose to further his own pro-abortion agenda rather than seek common ground on the abortion issue. Instead of faithfully representing America's views, President Obama has added another reliably liberal member to the Court who will continue to impose the Court's will on the people. Pro-life activists, the Davids in this epic battle for life, can only stop the Goliath of the White House by banding together and signing the petition at www.stopsotomayor.com."

Vision America:

Scarborough warned: "At age 54, Sotomayor could be a member of the United States Supreme Court for the next 20 years -- or longer. As a dedicated liberal, we know her views on abortion, gay marriage and reverse-discrimination -- whether or not she's ruled directly on these issues."

"That much power simply can't be bestowed by a compliant Senate," Scarborough observed. "This nomination must be stopped dead in its tracks. Sonia Sotomayor isn't a 'centrist,' she's a disaster at every level."

Susan B. Anthony List:

"Women are best protected by the rule of law -- and blind justice. Their rights are most endangered when personal preference, ideology or painful personal history inform judgment. Susan B. Anthony and her early feminist compatriots fought for a human rights standard sustained only through blind justice. When evidence of personal preference appears in any Supreme Court nominee's judgment, it should give all women pause. Given what we know about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's own judicial philosophy -- including her support of policymaking from the bench -- Americans should be concerned about the role of personal preference in her overall judicial philosophy.

When it comes to protecting all human life, one group is never served by undermining the rights of another. Women will never be served by ignoring the rights of unborn children. Judge Sonia Sotomayor's record of support for judicial activism offers little comfort that she will be a friend to the unborn on the Supreme Court. As the Senate fulfills its Constitutional role to 'advise and consent,' Senators should ask the hard questions to thoroughly assess Sotomayor's judicial temperament, and reaffirm the authentic feminist standard of blind justice for all."

Randall Terry:

"The filibuster trail was blazed by President Obama, VP Biden, Majority Leader Reed, Sec State Clinton, and other Democrat leaders in 2005 with Justice Alito. Do GOP leaders have the courage and integrity to filibuster an activist, pro-Roe judge?

"The Democrats have two weak links in their chain; Senators Nelson (NE) and Casey (PA) who both declare they are 'pro-life.' The question of conscience and courage is on the table: will they choose babies' lives or party loyalty?"

Ken Blackwell:

The White House is telling us all about Judge Sotomayor’s compelling personal story — and it is an amazing story of what is possible “only in America.” But compelling personal stories are not the question. Miguel Estrada, whom President George W. Bush nominated to the D.C. Circuit appeals court and was planning on nominating to the Supreme Court, had a compelling story as a Hispanic immigrant who legally came to this country not even speaking English. Democrats filibustered Mr. Estrada.

Supporters point out that Judge Sotomayor was first appointed by George H.W. Bush for the federal trial court — before Bill Clinton elevated her to the Second Circuit appeals court. That’s true, but George H.W. Bush also gave us Justice David Souter, so clearly he wasn’t too careful about putting liberals on the federal bench. We can’t allow the left to hide behind the Bushes.

But when it comes to gun rights, we don’t need to guess. Judge Sotomayor has put in writing what she thinks. President Obama has nominated a radically anti-Second Amendment judge to be our newest Supreme Court justice.

There are a number of pro-Second Amendment Democratic senators from deeply red states, including Mark Begich from Alaska, Jon Tester and Max Baucus from Montana, Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad from North Dakota, and Tim Johnson from South Dakota.

These senators will jeopardize their seats if they vote to support an anti-gun radical for the Supreme Court. Second Amendment supporters will now be up in arms over this radical anti-Second Amendment nominee, and you should never underestimate the political power of American gun owners.

Mike Huckabee (after first mistakenly calling her "Maria Sotomayor"):

The appointment of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama's campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bi-partisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the "Extreme Court" that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the "feelings" of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.

Richard Viguerie actually issued three different releases, including this one:

"The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor unites all wings of the conservative movement--economic, foreign policy, social, traditional, neocon, and libertarian--in a way we haven't seen since the early Clinton years.

"Judge Sotomayor frightens all conservatives. As the debate over her nomination heats up, conservatives will provide the primary opposition to Sotomayor and will quickly launch a massive educational campaign using direct mail, the Internet, talk radio, cable TV, You Tube, and other forms of new and alternative media.

"It was sad to read that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's comment on the Sotomayor nomination reflected the typical reaction Americans have come to expect from Republican politicians when he said that Republicans will reserve judgment on Sotomayor.

"No wonder conservatives now look to talk show hosts and other unelected conservatives for leadership, rather then wet-finger Republican politicians who always seeming to be waiting to see the direction of the political winds.

"It remains to be seen how active and effective Republican politicians will be on this historic fight, but conservatives are on the field, engaged, and ready to battle President Obama and all U.S. Senators who support Sotomayor."

This collection is actually just a fraction of the statements made in opposition to Sotomayor by right-wing groups, but it's more than enough to drive home the point that they appear intent on doing everything they can to oppose her nomination.

A Lesson In Senate Procedure for FRC

We have known for some time now that the Right was targeting Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, for defeat.  But what we weren't aware of, until reading this post from the Family Research Council's Tom McClusky, was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't have the votes to get her confirmed:

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is now telling reporters he does not have the votes to confirm Dawn Johnsen for Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department. Ms. Johnsen has been a long time advocate for abortion rights groups, comparing pregnancy to slavery. She has also been outspoken on counterterrorism measures.

Of course, if you read the article he links to, you find out that Reid didn't say he doesn't have the votes to confirm Johnsen - what he actually said was that he doesn't have the votes to prevent a Republican-led filibuster of her nomination:

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves to ease a backlog of executive branch nominations, he suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, responding to a question about the status of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Justice post. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

As Reid explained elsewhere:

“We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60," Reid added. And it's just a small number, maybe two or three. But at this stage, I don't have all the Democrats. I have virtually all, but not all. And remember, we have 59 Democrats, and that's not enough to do it."

Reid has more than enough votes to confirm Johnsen if she can get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, which is exactly what Republicans are trying to prevent with a filibuster. 

According to his bio, McClusky has a long history of working in politics, including a stint as a political analyst for the Republican National Committee, so presumably he knows about Senate procedure and the difference between a confirmation vote and a cloture vote.

In fact, I 'm pretty sure that he does, because just a few years ago, he signed onto a letter calling on Senators to ensure that Bush administration nominees received an up-or-down vote on the floor:

If you cannot support a particular nominee, vote him or her out of committee without a positive recommendation, or vote against confirmation. But please do not deny the nominee a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. In other words, we ask only that you do your job by putting statesmanship above politics and special interests.

Is it too much to ask that the Vice President for Government Affairs at the Family Research Council not hypocritically and purposely mischaracterize what is going on regarding Johnsen's nomination and the GOP's obstruction efforts?

Apparently it is.

SCOTUS Round-Up

I’m going to start posting quick round-ups of what the Right is saying about the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy here on a regular basis – possibly daily, depending on what is available.  

Politico reports that Sen. John Ensign is refusing to say whether Senate Republicans would attempt to filibuster President Obama's nominee, while Mitt Romney says the GOP needs to be prepared to “stand up and scream long and hard” if they get someone they don’t like.

In an editorial, the National Review says that “the proper course for Republicans — inside and outside the Senate — is to build a case for saying no” to pretty much whomever Obama nominates while Matthew Franck says nobody should be fooled by assertions that Obama will nominate a “pragmatist”

LifeNews reports that anti-choice groups are gearing up for battle:

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, promised her group would help lead the charge against any pro-abortion activist Obama may name to the high court.

“We will work to oppose any nominee for the Supreme Court who will read the Freedom of Choice Act into the Constitution in order to elevate abortion to a fundamental right on the same plane as the freedom of speech," she told LifeNews.com.

Yoest said the jurist Obama names to the Supreme Court will tell the American public whether he is serious about reducing abortions or keeping it an unlimited "right" that has yielded over 50 million abortions since 1973.

“This nomination represents a test for a President who has expressed a public commitment to reducing abortions while pursuing an aggressive pro-abortion agenda," she said. "Appointing an abortion radical to the Court -- someone who believes social activism trumps the Constitution -- further undermines efforts to reduce abortion."

Jay Sekulow, the president of the American Center for Law and Justice, told LifeNews.com the retirement gives Obama his first chance to shape the court, most notably on abortion.

“The reported retirement of Justice Souter marks the beginning of President Obama’s legal legacy – a legacy that will move this country dramatically to the left,” he says.

“With reports that Justice Souter will step down at the end of the term, President Obama now has a green light to begin reshaping the federal judiciary. Based on the appointments at the Department of Justice, it’s clear that President Obama will name a Supreme Court nominee who will embrace an extremely liberal judicial philosophy," he said.

Sekulow called on Senate Democrats to allow an open process where questions about where the eventual nominee stands on abortion and key pro-life issues are allowed.

"Once a nominee is named and the confirmation process begins, it’s important that the nominee faces full and detailed hearings – with specific focus on the nominee’s judicial philosophy including how the nominee views the constitution and the rule of law," he said.

LifeNews has a related article saying that whomever President Obama chooses, they will certainly be pro-choice, and throws out several possibilities including Elena Kagan, and Marjorie Dannenfelser responds:

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life women's group Susan B. Anthony List, told LifeNews.com her organization urged pro-life advocates to ask their members of the Senate to vote no on Kagan, who has a longstanding pro-abortion position.

"In the past Kagan has been a strong supporter of the pro-abortion agenda," Dannenfelser explains. "She has vigorously opposed the de-funding of taxpayer-funded clinics which promote abortions, despite the fact that a majority of Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund abortion providers."

Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice also comments to OneNewsNow on what to look for: 

Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, says Souter will not be missed. But the justice's replacement, he cautions, may be even more liberal, based on what President Obama has said he is looking for in judges.
 
"[President Obama] has said that he's looking for a judicial activist," says Levey. "He didn't use that actual word. He said he's looking for a judge who shows empathy by favoring certain groups -- pregnant women, minorities, so on, and so forth. That is the definition of judicial activism -- outcome-oriented judging."

The ONN article notes that “current Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Kathleen Sullivan -- are open lesbians,” which is a point also noted by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins

A nod from Obama for former Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan could trigger a similar fight. Sullivan has openly acknowledged that she is a lesbian, a fact that would make history on the court and surely draw extra attention to her advocacy for gay rights.

“I think that would be a bridge too far for him, to be honest, because that would enter a whole new element into the debate that I don’t think he’s ready for,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

CQ notes that a Supreme Court battle has traditionally led to good fundraising for conservative groups:

Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the conservative Traditional Values Coalition, said that “at a minimum” Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination will provide a “very good teachable moment” for voters about their new president.

Lafferty says that some voters who backed Obama will be turned off by his choice of a Supreme Court nominee.

“This is about mobilizing people and educating people. This isn’t about filling coffers,” she said.

But she also acknowledged that mobilization efforts and advertising cost money, and that Supreme Court picks fuel the apparatus: “It does kick it into high gear. Everybody knows that this is what it’s all about.”

Finally, the Judicial Confirmation Network’s Wendy Long was interviewed by Human Events where she attacked Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Sonya Sotomayor and accused Obama of wanting “judges to bring a political agenda to the bench and effectively legislate from the bench. He wants judges to tilt the law to favor certain groups and certain causes based upon the judge’s own personal feelings and personal views and personal politics.”

She also has an op-ed in the Washington Times saying that “In his arrogance, Mr. Obama has overlooked the fact that he was not elected based upon his criteria for Supreme Court justices” and that the American public does not support his views about what is needed in a judge and calling on GOP senators to take a strong stand:

Mr. Obama's nominee will carry with her to the Senate a presumption that she will, as her nominating president has said, have "empathy" for certain favored liberal causes and parties - making it difficult, as Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said, to uphold the federal judicial oath to dispense justice impartially. Mr. Obama's gold standard is the very opposite of impartiality.

Never in history have senators had such a heavy responsibility to scrutinize a nominee to see if she intends to follow the president's lawless standard of judging. If she does, they will have a responsibility to vote against her - and for the Constitution and the rule of law.

SCOTUS: Daly Returns As The Right Plots Strategy

I've been wondering why the Right's public response to the news that David Souter will be retiring has been almost non-existent.  The news broke last night and yet very few right-wing groups have even bothered to so much as issue a statement - but, it turns out, that was probably because they have been busy plotting and coordinating their strategy:

Conservative groups worked into the night Thursday after news broke of Justice David Souter’s retirement to arrange a conference call early Friday morning to talk strategy with representatives of more than 60 groups.

Leaders on the call, such as Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, told colleagues that one of their first challenges is convincing activists there is a fight to be had.

"One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn't really matter — Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It's a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”

Curt Levy, also of the Judicial Confirmation Network, argued to the nearly 200 activists on the conference call that this can "be a winning issue" for conservatives if they focus on what he called the "right issues" such as same sex marriage, death penalty and the Second Amendment — issues that can split Democrats.

"If [President Obama] was to nominate somebody who was anti-death penalty, pro-gay marriage, you know - took a very extreme view on the separation of church and state, etc, or against any restriction on partial birth abortion… I think this could really be a 70-30 type issue for the Republican Party." said Levy, meaning it would have 70 percent support from Republicans.

Conservative activists also made it clear that they're concerned about whether Republican senators have the stomach for this fight, since they know going in that Democrats have a nearly filibuster proof majority.

"We've really got to make it clear that we have certain expectations for Republican senators," Levy said, "Including the fact that they study the nominee and not run to the podium to endorse the nominee whoever it is.”

Another member of the Judicial Confirmation Network, Gary Marx, said he has the same concerns.

"We need to really be focused on putting wind in the sails of these Republican senators at this stage of the battle," said Marx.

The Hill has a similar article that quotes Kay Daly of the Coalition for a Fair Judicairy, of all people, and treats her organization as if it is actually legitimate: 

Groups like the American Center for Law & Justice, the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary and the Committee for Justice will all prepare background research on potential nominees, setting up the eventual, inevitable attacks on the nominee as a left-wing extremist.

...

Though the new nominee is still unnamed, several top Republican operatives are already sending background documents to reporters, questioning oft-mentioned candidates' fitness for the highest court in the nation.

"Part of our strategy was already done," said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice. "We have all our research memos done on all the top people."

Early front-runners for the bogeyman nod have cropped up: Darling mentioned Yale University Law School Dean Harold Koh, whom he called "very extreme." Sekulow specifically called out 2nd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, an early favorite for the nod, as "to the left of David Souter."

"This is not my ideal situation," said Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary. "Obama could conceivably put a justice onto the bench that literally would make Souter look like [Associate Justice Antonin] Scalia."

I just wrote a post about Daly and her Coalition for a Fair Judiciary a few weeks ago, noting that she and her "organization" had been utterly non-existent for more than two years until she suddenly popped up last month, after which she immediately went silent once again:

Daly’s tagline says that she is “president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary,” which, while true, is something of a truism considering that CFJ’s staff has always consisted solely of Daly.

And, of course, her exhortations and claims to represent grassroots activists might carry more weight if she hadn’t been completely AWOL for the last several years.

A quick look at her website reveals that the organization has not issued a press release since November 2006, nor has any of its data on judicial confirmations been updated since the 109th Congress, while it’s “Judicial Appointments Status Report” is current as of 10/18/2006. In fact, everything on its website is at least two years out of date. Even Daly’s blog goes dormant for months at a time, with her last post having gone up back in October until she returned today to let everyone know that she had a new piece in Human Events.

As I said then, "like cicadas, these right-wing groups emerge, make a loud racket for a short period of time and then all but disappear, only to re-emerge down the road and start the whole process over again."

I, for one, genuinely hope that the Right puts Daly and her "organization" in charge preparing background on potential Obama nominees because, given her track record, she'll probably get around to releasing it some time in 2011. 

For those unfamiliar with Daly, she also just so happens to be the one responsible for producing the infamous ads from Vernon Robinson back in 2006:

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Did you know that Former U. S. Sen. Rick Santorum is getting paid $1,750 a piece for every inane column he writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer?
  • Phyllis Schlafly will receive the James C. Dobson Vision and Leadership Award at this year's Values Voter Summit.
  • Miss California is quickly becoming a right-wing hero/martyr thanks to her stated opposition to marriage equality during the Miss USA pageant.
  • Liberty Counsel is launching its annual "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign, vowing to "litigate to ensure that prayer and religious viewpoints are not suppressed during public school graduation ceremonies."
  • The Susan B. Anthony List is urging "pro-life Senators to do all they can -- including support a filibuster -- in order to stop abortion activist Dawn Johnsen's nomination for Office of Legal Counsel," saying her nomination "holds significant implications for our next Supreme Court battle."
  • Finally, Alveda King weighs in on the recent DHS report, complaining that it makes no sense to suggest that anti-abortion militants might link up with racist groups because "Abortion is the white supremacist's best friend."

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Our own Peter Montgomery has a post up on Religious Dispatches on the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling.
  • The Daily Beast reports that Republicans are threatening to filibuster President Obama's nominees if he moves to release the infamous Bush administration's "torture memos" - Drew has more over on the People For Blog.
  • Nate Silver says that if Iowans were given the opportunity to vote on a marriage ban today, "it would pass with 56.0 percent of the vote. By 2012, however, the model projects a toss-up: 50.4 percent of Iowans voting to approve the ban, and 49.6 percent opposed. In 2013 and all subsequent years, the model thinks the marriage ban would fail."
  • John Aravosis reports that Think Progress founder Judd Legum is running for office in Maryland.
  • Tips-Q reports on both Alan Keyes and Steve Deace freaking out over the Iowa marriage ruling.
  • Good as You has the audio of a rather remarkable discussion between Matt Barber and Steve Crampton of Liberty Counsel and a caller on their radio program.
  • AU doesn't like efforts by David Lynch, with support from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, to get Transcendental Meditation taught in schools.

GOP Contemplating Filibusters of Johnsen and Hamilton

Anyone who paid even a minimal amount of attention to the battle over judicial nominations during the George W. Bush’s presidency knows that Senate Republicans were unified in their opposition to the Democrats’ use of the filibuster against a handful of his nominees, going so far as to threaten the “nuclear option” to do away with their ability to block his controversial nominees.

But those days are long gone, as the GOP made clear to President Obama when it pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of his nominees before he had even made any. And true to form, it looks like they are contemplating using one right off the bat against his very first nominee, David Hamilton:

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, has complained that the Democrats are moving too quickly to consider Mr. Hamilton, a federal trial judge in Indiana since 1994. The committee has set for Wednesday the confirmation hearing on Judge Hamilton, who was nominated only in mid-March.

While that possibility is still a bit down the road, a filibuster of Obama’s nominee head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, Dawn Johnsen, looks like it might be coming soon:

Republicans senators and aides, granted anonymity to discuss their strategy, said they might consider a filibuster in an effort to block Ms. Johnsen’s confirmation. They will first gauge whether they can attract some support from conservative Democrats, they said, in order to help defeat any motion that would cut off debate.

Roll Call also reports that Republicans are considering filibustering Johnsen and that doing so would be a good way for Sen. Arlen Specter, who is likely facing a tough primary challenge from ultra-conservative Pat Toomey, to demonstrate his conservative bona fides:

Although Senate Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) declined to comment on a possible filibuster until he meets with Johnsen again before leaving for recess at the end of the week, Republicans confirmed that the filibuster option has been discussed by members of the GOP Conference and that opposition to the nomination is mounting … Republicans said Johnsen’s record on a number of key issues has done something that has become increasingly rare in their fractured Conference — uniting social conservatives and security hard-liners.

“She’s got one of those résumés that unites the social conservatives and the war-on-terror conservatives,” a GOP leadership aide said. Johnsen has been a vocal critic of how the Bush administration conducted the war on terror and her views have rubbed hawkish conservatives in the GOP the wrong way.

Should Republicans ultimately decide to filibuster Johnsen’s nomination, it could be a boon to Specter’s re-election efforts. Specter is looking at a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who came within 17,000 votes of defeating him in the 2004 GOP primary. A recent poll showed Toomey with a double-digit lead over Specter in a hypothetical Republican primary, but with many voters still undecided and the primary more than one year away.

Specter also faces a dwindling base across the state as hundreds of thousands of moderate Republicans have changed their registrations to Democratic since 2004 in the Keystone State. Specter is at a disadvantage in the closed GOP primary without those moderate Republicans and will likely have to mount a voter registration drive to switch some of those Democrats back before 2010.

But a filibuster of Johnsen could help Specter significantly bolster his conservative credentials with the voters back home. One Republican said a filibuster “could be very good for him,” particularly because opposition to Johnsen’s nomination runs the spectrum of conservative constituencies.

That would be quite a change for Specter, who was no fan of the filibuster when Democrats used it against Bush judicial nominees like Miguel Estrada, according to his remarks on the Senate floor on April 2, 2003:

When you strip this argument down, it boils down to an effort by the other side of the aisle to rewrite the advice and consent clause of the Constitution. For more than 200 years, the President has had discretion in the nomination of Federal judges. And unless there is some reason not to confirm them, they then are confirmed … This is simply an effort, when 41 Members from the other side of the aisle decide to oppose cloture, to continue this filibuster … I do believe there is going to have to be some dramatic action taken so that Americans understand the travesty going on in the Senate Chamber today.

So the filibuster of a nominee to a life-time seat on the federal judiciary was a “travesty” to Specter, but a filibuster of an executive branch nominee to a political position might be perfectly acceptable to him?

White House Sets Texas' Senators Straight On the Judicial Selection Process

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about judicial nominations that linked to this Congressional Research Service report from last year entitled "Role of Home State Senators in the Selection of Lower Federal Court Judges" [PDF]. It contained a variety of information on how the judicial selection process works for the various courts under different scenarios, one of which is how it has traditionally been carried out when the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other.  In such cases, explained CRS, the Senators played a secondary role in the selection process:

By custom, when neither of a state’s Senators is of the President’s party, the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party. Historically, in the absence of a Senator of the President’s party, the state official or officials who most frequently have exercised the judicial “patronage” function have been the most senior member, or one of the most senior members, of the party’s House of Representatives delegation, the House party delegation as a whole, the governor, or state party officials. In any given state, one of these officials may exercise the recommending function exclusively, or share it with one or more of the others.

...

[A]t the start of presidency of George W. Bush, a Republican, in January 2001, the new Administration looked to other than senatorial sources for advice on judicial candidates in states having two opposition party Senators. The Legal Times reported that in “the 18 states where both senators are Democrats, Bush will be getting advice on potential nominees from a high-ranking Republican House member or the state’s Republican governor" ... By custom, the role of a state’s Senators in judicial candidate selection, when neither is of the President’s party, is secondary to the role of those officials discussed above, who actually choose candidates to recommend to the President. Customarily, in these circumstances, the state’s Senators, if they are consulted by state officials of the President’s party, are consulted for their reactions to candidates under consideration, but not for their own preferences. Where consultations of this sort are done in good faith, negative as well as positive feedback from the Senators would be welcomed, but typically they would not be called upon to make their own candidate recommendations.

Apparently, the two Republican Senators from Texas weren't aware that the White House had switched hands and were refusing to cede control of the process, forcing state Democrats to go over their heads and get the White House to put them in their place:

After laboring in the shadows of George W. Bush and Tom DeLay for most of the last decade, Texas Democrats got a fresh taste of relevance Tuesday when the White House publicly declared them the victors in a power play over judicial nominees.

For years, the state's Republican senators screened applicants for lifetime spots on the federal bench in Texas and for powerful U.S. attorney posts. As recently as last week, they refused to cede that prerogative and claimed the administration was behind them.

That left Texas Democrats – the third-largest delegation of Democrats on Capitol Hill – steamed enough to summon the president's top lawyer, Greg Craig, and insist on public reassurance that Democrats get to pick judges under a Democratic administration.

After he got an earful for 75 minutes Monday, his office issued a clarification.

"No federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal will be nominated by the president ... unless that person has the confirmed support of the Texas Democratic delegation," the White House said Tuesday.

Both senators now say they are looking forward to working with the White House and the state delegation in the process but are reminding everyone that "they still have the power to hold up nominees they don't care for:"

The senators implicitly threatened to block nominees if they're bypassed or disapprove of candidates who emerge from the Democrats' process.

So don't be surprised if Republicans and right-wing judicial activists now start citing this change as further evidence that the White House and Democrats are creating a contentious and counterproductive atmosphere around the issue of judicial nominations.

Contentious and Counterproductive

Yesterday, Ed Whelan wrote a post on Bench Memos asking why Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy was trying “to rush through President Obama’s nomination of David F. Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit.”

Today, he followed it up with a post linking to this CQ article reporting that Sen. Arlen Specter has weighed in to voice his opposition to the timing and saying that just because Hamilton has the support of his home state senators, that doesn’t mean he is free and clear:  

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said today that he plans to hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama's nomination of David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit next week, despite GOP objections.

"We'll do it next week," Leahy said. He brushed aside Republican complaints that he is moving too fast on the nomination, which Obama made on March 17, saying that his acquiescence in delaying some of Obama's Justice Department nominations was met with more Republican delaying tactics.

The committee's top Republican, Arlen Specter, voiced his displeasure during a committee hearing this morning. Specter also made it clear that when it comes to Obama's judicial nominations, support from Republican home state senators, by itself, won't be enough to eliminate GOP opposition.

Hamilton, currently an Indiana federal district judge, is backed by Indiana Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar. But social conservatives have criticized Hamilton as an ideological activist.

Specter said Lugar's endorsement is "not sufficient. There's a little thing called the Constitution and it calls for confirmation by the Senate," Specter added, "Dick Lugar doesn't confirm, the Senate does."

Whelan also reports that Specter sent a letter to Leahy asking him to delay the hearing until after the upcoming recess and added a handwritten note at the bottom reading:

If you insist on this schedule [i.e., a pre-recess hearing] for Hamilton, you will [be] starting on the first Pres Obama nomination in a very contentious manner which will provoke opposition [and] prove counterproductive.  (Emphasis in original.)

Interesting that it is Leahy who is acting in a “very contentious manner” regarding judicial nominations considering that it was Specter and all of his Republican colleagues who sent President Obama a letter before he had even made his first nomination threatening to filibuster any and all of his nominations if they were “not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from” their respective states.

Specter apparently doesn’t see the irony here, but the threat to preemptively filibuster all of President Obama’s judicial nominees before he had even made any is itself rather contentious and counterproductive behavior.

Robertson Calls on Republicans to Show Some Backbone and Filibuster Every One of Obama's Judicial Nominees

Via Media Matters comes this video of Pat Robertson calling on Republicans in the Senate to “filibuster every single one” of President Obama’s judicial nominees:

It’s one thing to get somebody elected to the legislature for a couple of years, the House of Representatives for four years, or the Senate for six years. But somebody who goes into a federal appeals court is there for life and I think it’s time for Republicans gave Democrats a dose of their own medicine. They were reckless in the way the filibustered perfectly legitimate, highly qualified judicial candidates, some of the most blatant examples of partisanship.   Well, it’s time for the Republicans to do the same thing and they ought to filibuster every single one.  But to put somebody who is an activist for ACORN, who’s an ACLU activist, who has a history of ultra-left wing decisions – the Republicans are going to need backbone, now’s the time to show it:

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Filibuster Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 06/25/2010, 4:10pm
Yesterday I posted a press release from Rabbi Yehuda Levin claiming that if Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will issue "extremist decisions" from the bench that will, in turn, unleash a "backlash" of anti-Semitic violence across the nation to sweep the nation. As such, Kagan's confirmation represents an "existential threat" to Jews in America and she therefore must be defeated. Now obviously, that is insane.  But, as Media Matters notes, apparently not too insane for CNSNews to pick it up and turn it into an article.  And not... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 06/16/2010, 9:31am
You might remember Rabbi Yehuda Levin from his statement earlier this year that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell was the "equivalent of the spiritual rape of our military" and would cause untold natural disasters because "homosexuality is a spiritual cause of earthquakes." Well, today he is back with another warning that letting gays serve openly will cause the US to lose wars because God will "repel [HIS] Divine Grace from our military's struggles, and beyond": "Passage of such evil legislation would expedite our hurdling towards Sodom and Gommorah. It... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 05/14/2010, 1:46pm
It's been a rather slow news day here, so why not spend ten minutes getting up to speed on the latest prophecies from Cindy Jacobs? The video is actually dated April 29, but just showed up on the General's International website and in it, Jacobs highlights two prophecies she made recently, the first about the birth of a new island and the second about fire coming from ice.  Both have come true, Jacobs explains, citing some new island forming off of Hawaii and the volcanic explosion in Iceland. She goes on to prophecy that the upcoming Global Day of Prayer, which coincides with the Day of... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 05/10/2010, 2:47pm
Gordon "Chaps" Klingenschmitt is also demanding to know whether Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is gay and is launching a petition urging the Senate to "oppose and filibuster reported Lesbian Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court": As far back as 2006 and 2007, four different Harvard Law Students confirmed that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was a Lesbian. Why is the Obama Administration now suddenly ashamed of Kagan's homosexual orientation? CBS News first reported that President Obama's new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will be the "first... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 04/05/2010, 4:59pm
Alan Colmes: Doctor Against Treating Obama Supporters Admits Not Knowing What’s In Health Reform Bill. Americans United: Religious Right Leader Says He Fears Theocracy (And We Fear He’s Fibbing). Towleroad: Deepak Chopra Apologizes for Causing Mexicali Earthquake. Minneapolis City Pages: Michele Bachmann's Census claptrap ignored in Minnesota. Justin Elliot: Idaho GOP Gov Hopeful: I'm OK With Militias Showing 'A Little Force.' Think Progress: GOP Willing To Filibuster Obama’s Yet-To-Be-Named SCOTUS Nominee. Finally, John... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 03/02/2010, 3:10pm
If you need any more proof that Senate Republicans' sole mission at the moment is to prevent anything from happening in their chamber of Congress, look no further than the fact that today the Senate had to seek cloture on the nomination Barbara Milano Keenan to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a vote of 99-0. That's right - not one Republican senator spoke against her qualifications, record, or views or voted to prevent her nomination from receiving an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor ... and yet still they filibustered, forcing Democrats to seek a... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 01/26/2010, 12:20pm
It seems that Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts has turned Mike Huckabee into a Tea Party true believer.  A few months back, when tea party activists were making the Doug Hoffman/Dede Scozzafava the proving ground for ideological loyalty, Huckabee was conspicuously absent until the very last minute when he jumped in over after Scozzafava had dropped out. Similarly, in the Brown race, Huckabee basically sat on the sidelines, but in the wake of his win, Huckabee is suddenly climbing aboard the tea party bandwagon, first claiming that members of Congress "should be tarred and... MORE