Filibuster

Abramoff Rabbi Joins 'War on Christians' Chorus

In a rousing call to arms, Rabbi Daniel Lapin cites the failure to heed warnings about the rise of Hitler, Communism, and Islamic terrorism in warning of “a serious war” that “is being waged against a group of Americans” – a war against “Christian conservatives,” or perhaps just “Christians.” “I am certain that if we lose this war, the consequences for American civilization will be dire,” he writes.

Phase one of this war I describe is a propaganda blitzkrieg that is eerily reminiscent of how effectively the Goebbels propaganda machine softened up the German people for what was to come.

There is no better term than propaganda blitzkrieg to describe what has been unleashed against Christian conservatives recently.

Consider the long list of anti-Christian books that have been published in recent months.

Lapin lists six books critical of the Religious Right (and one critical of religion in general). “Fervent zealots of secularism are flinging themselves into this anti-Christian war with enormous fanaticism,” he writes of this “proliferation of anti-Christian print propaganda.”

If they succeed, Christianity will be driven underground, and its benign influence on the character of America will be lost. In its place we shall see a sinister secularism that menaces Bible believers of all faiths. Once the voice of the Bible has been silenced, the war on Western Civilization can begin and we shall see a long night of barbarism descend on the West.

Lapin, president of a group called Toward Tradition, is adopting the “persecuted majority syndrome” championed by the right-wing activists who brought you “Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster against People of Faith” in 2005 and the “War on Christians” conference in 2006. (Lapin was a featured speaker at “Justice Sunday.”) In this tactic, political disagreements with the Religious Right in particular are neatly translated into attacks on Christianity in general.

Called the “Republicans’ Rabbi-in-Arms” in a Washington Post profile, Lapin has carved out a particular niche among D.C.-based right-wing activists and the leadership of the GOP. It was reportedly Lapin who introduced Jack Abramoff to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Toward Tradition has been implicated in allegedly funneling bribes from a gambling company to a DeLay aide.

With Abramoff now in prison and DeLay out of office (and under indictment), Lapin’s influence on the Right may be less certain. Perhaps his embrace of the mythical “war on Christians” theme represents an attempt to reestablish his right-wing credentials.

Mitch McConnell: <em>Minority</em> Leader

What can be expected from Senate Republicans in the upcoming term?  Other than gridlock and blatant partisanship, apparently not very much.

Over the weekend, new Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that, unless Democrats acquiesce to votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees, the Republicans would not hesitate to resort to the filibuster

The Senate's next Republican leader issued a veiled threat Friday to block action on legislation if Democrats refuse to allow confirmation votes on President Bush's troubled judicial nominations.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become minority leader Jan. 4, told the conservative Federalist Society not to feel bad about the Senate election results because Republicans will hold 49 seats in a body that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and bring legislation or presidential nominees to a final vote.

If the “Democrats want our cooperation, they'll give the president's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote,” McConnell said.

As we’ve noted before, if McConnell and others are really concerned about judicial nominees not getting an up-or-down vote, perhaps they can start hounding Sen. Sam Brownback to lift his hold on the nomination of Janet Neff.

In addition, considering that just last year McConnell was chomping at the bit to get rid of the filibuster once and for all when it came to judges, it is sort of odd that he’d now be threatening to filibuster other things if judges don’t get votes. And does McConnell really think that even lower court judges who are voted down in Committee must get a vote, despite the clear practice to the contrary on judges as well as legislation in Senates controlled by both parties?  

This sort of bogus “Democrats-had-better-do-as-we-say” claim to bipartisanship looks to be a key part of McConnell’s strategy heading into the new session, positioning the GOP in such a way that they can try and blame Democrats for any showdowns in the Senate

“I think that they’ll have to deal with us.”

Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s confidence could fool you. You’d think he wasn’t giving up majority digs for minority ones, the way he talks.

But he is — though you had better believe he’s ready to fight for minority rights.

In a brief interview at the Capitol with National Review Online on Thursday, the Kentucky Republican said that he has “a good personal relationship” with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but plans on “cooperat[ing] only if they move to the center” policy-wise. He’s as curious as everyone else is if the buzz about there being more conservative Dems in the Senate now is true. “We’ll see if they really mean it.”

It is hard to understand why McConnell thinks Democrats need to “move to the center,” considering that they just picked up six seats in the Senate – five of which were held by Republicans Senators who had received 100% ranking from the joint Family Research Council Action/Focus on the Family Action voter guide and the endorsement of Gary Bauer’s Campaign for Working Families.

If anyone needs to “move to the center” it ought to be Senate Republicans, since it was five of their own right-wing colleagues who lost their seats in the last election. 

After all, it is because of these losses that McConnell is now the incoming Senate Minority Leader.

Don't Let Door Hit You: GOP Immigration Panel Blames Abortion

Missouri House committee claims shortage of workers caused by abortion, “liberal social welfare policies.” In Senate: Kyl ponders filibuster against guest-worker.

The Company He Keeps

Last week, according to the Washington Daybook, a “group of black pastors [held] a press conference, beginning at 1 p.m., to endorse Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in Maryland's Senate race.”  Among those endorsing Steele was Bishop Harry Jackson who likes to refer to himself as a Democrat primarily because “being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off.” 

Apparently, Jackson thinks that by calling himself a Democrat means he can get away with saying things like

Gays have been at the helm of a fourfold strategy for years, but the wisdom behind their spiritual, cultural, political and generational tactics is clearly satanic.

Given his views, it is no surprise that the Right has eagerly embraced Jackson, featuring him as a speaker at two Family Research Council events – “Justice Sunday,” where he complained that “Black churches are too concerned with justice” and “Justice Sunday II” – designed to push for the confirmation of right-wing Bush administration judges, and inviting him to appear at a rally alongside Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist supporting the use of the "nuclear option" to do away with the filibuster in order to confirm Judge Janice Rogers Brown.

Recently, Jackson declared that his top reasons for working to elect Republicans are

As a black evangelical, I’ve had to think about the unpleasant prospect of a Democratically-controlled House and Senate. If the Democrats are in power, the following problems will occur: 1) There will be no protection of traditional marriage, 2) Abortion-on-demand will be encouraged, 3) Religious freedoms will be attacked …

Joining Jackson in endorsing Steele was Rev. James Thompson of Integrity Church International in Landover, MD - and apparently Jackson’s fear that religious freedoms would be attacked by Democrats was shared by Thompson’s wife, Emma Jean Thompson, who is responsible for this

Sellers said the campaign knew nothing about a mailer that arrived yesterday urging support for Steele and declaring that Democratic Senate candidate "Ben Cardin Promises to Attack Jesus Christ, Pastors, Churches and Christians and to Take Away Blacks' Freedom If He Is Elected."

The piece criticizing Cardin, who is Jewish, was produced and distributed by Emma Jean Thompson, a Bowie woman who attended a news conference yesterday endorsing Steele.

Folding Up The Big Tent

Coming on the heels of our posts about Sen. Brownback’s one-man filibuster of one of President Bush’s judicial nominees because she may have presided over a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple back in 2002, USA Today ran a tangentially related article on the miniscule rise in the number of openly gay judges.

Not surprisingly, the Right doesn’t like it

"We don't accept that homosexuality is any kind of cultural identity that should be sought in a judge," says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that opposes same-sex marriage. "We think it's a behavior, not something that should be held up as a role model."

Sprigg … says gay judges are acceptable to his group — as long as their sexual orientation isn't a factor in their work.

"We don't think we should make an issue of it, if they keep it private," he says. "If we had reason to believe that they would pursue a pro-homosexual agenda, then we would vigorously oppose them."

Funny, when Democrats raised concerns about whether some of President Bush’s judicial nominees could keep their “deeply held” religious beliefs from influencing their work on the bench, the Right accused them of being bigots.   

The article also describes a “chilling atmosphere” that might help explain why so few are openly gay on the bench.

Such sentiments [like those expressed by Sprigg] — and the partisan politics that surround judicial nominations on the federal level — help explain why there appears to be only one openly gay judge on the 875-member federal bench, where appointments are for life.

So the Right says gays can’t be judges. Nor can they be Republicans, for that matter, at least according to one of Sprigg’s colleague at FRC

"The big-tent strategy could ultimately spell doom for the Republican Party," said Tom McClusky, chief lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group. "All a big-tent strategy seems to be doing is attracting a bunch of clowns."

Brownback’s Filibuster

As we noted last week, Sen. Sam Brownback has placed a hold on one of President Bush’s judicial nominees, Janet Neff, because Neff allegedly presided over a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple back in 2002.  

Despite the fact that Neff was nominated to a seat on the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan, which is about 1,000 miles away from Brownback’s home state of Kansas, he has taken it upon himself to stall her nomination until he can determine whether she did something he considers illegal (even though a symbolic commitment ceremony is not illegal in any state.)

To that end, he has reportedly gotten the Justice Department involved

Mr. Brownback has asked the U.S. Justice Department for a formal legal opinion in addition to asking Judge Neff specific questions.

Of course, last year, Brownback set out his principle for dealing with judges, saying

“All of the president’s nominees—both now and in the future—deserve a fair up or down vote, regardless of whether some members of the Senate feel they can be filibustered based on whatever they define to be extraordinary circumstances.”

Apparently, that standard doesn’t apply to any nominee about whom Brownback has concerns.  

Right Still Trying to Pick A Fight Over Judges

It is not very often that right-wing interest groups write to Republican senators, urging them to push for the confirmation of a handful of judges for crassly partisan reasons.  

Well, actually, that probably happens all the time. 

But it is unusual when they then post the letter for the entire world to see, as the Committee for Justice recently did

With the election less than eight weeks away, Thursday's vote is crucial. It is the last opportunity to get nominees onto the floor in time for a pre-election confirmation fight that would focus voters’ minds on the federal judiciary as the canonical example of the difference between the two parties. This is the time to remind voters that it is the Republicans that put constitutionalist judges on the federal courts and the Democrats who are responsible for an activist judiciary that protected online pornography, restricted the death penalty, weakened private property rights, struck down the federal ban on partial birth abortion, declared the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional, and otherwise drove religion from the public square. Can the constitutional protection of gay marriage be far behind if Democrats have their way with the federal judiciary?

Many of you ran and won in 2002 and 2004 because, in part, you promised to support the President’s judicial nominees and to end obstruction by the minority Democrats. Maybe some of your colleagues who last ran in 2000 do not realize that things have changed. Perhaps you should consider those candidates running in 2006 who are not yet in your meetings but could use the judges issue to their advantage, if only you will tee it up for them.

Voting the circuit court nominees out of committee on Thursday, thus setting the stage for an up or down vote on the Senate floor, is truly a no-lose proposition. If Democrats do little to obstruct a confirmation vote, Republicans senators can claim credit for improving the judiciary. However, if Democrats filibuster or otherwise stand in the way of a vote, it will be clear to the public which party is the party of the obstruction and which party is trying to end judicial activism. Do not worry about whether Republicans have the votes to win the confirmation battle. The goal is to remind the American people of what is at stake when they vote on November 7.

Since the confirmation of Justice Alito in January, Republican senators have missed various opportunities to keep the judges issue on voters’ minds. As a result, Senate Democrats have barely had to lift a finger to accomplish their goal of blocking the President’s conservative nominees. Fortunately, it is not too late to make the Democrats pay a price for their obstruction and to use the judges issue and judge-related issues to Republicans’ advantage in the upcoming election.

One of the nominees in question is  reportedly being opposed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Sen. Arlen Specter admits that others are “embroiled in a controversy” and have “problems.”  This includes opposition by major police organizations and high-ranking career military leaders.  Presumably, CFJ is urging  that  senators “not worry about whether Republicans have the votes to win the confirmation battle” because there is a very real likelihood that they don’t actually have the necessary votes.  

But never let it be said that the Right will let facts or reality dissuade them from their desire to create bogus battles for purely partisan gain.  

Blacks Purported to Embrace Far-Right Agenda

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. thinks that America is “at a crossroads in terms of thought and political ideology.”

This is the moment in which the conservative movement can win many converts from the black community. In order to accomplish this, conservatives must understand the real concerns of the average African American.

According to Jackson, who launched his “Black Contract with America on Moral Values” last year, the “real concerns of the average African American” are topped with banning same-sex marriage and rejecting “tax-and-spend policies directed at the poor.”

Since joining forces with the far Right – including membership in the influential Arlington Group – Jackson has been a frequent spokesman for right-wing causes. He spoke at the “Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith” religious rally in support of Bush’s extreme judicial nominees, and told the television audience at “Justice Sunday II” that “You and I can bring the rule and reign of the Cross to America.” He's scheduled to speak at the Family Research Council's "Values Voter Summit" later this month.

Gays in particular seem to motivate Jackson’s political efforts. In an article in Charisma magazine, Jackson wrote that the “wisdom behind” the “gay agenda” is “clearly satanic,” and he called for an aggressive “counterattack.” He asserted to The New York Times that “Historically when societies have gone off kilter, there has been rampant same-sex marriage.”

Jackson writes that in 2004, he “decided to make a difference by calling on black Christians to vote for George Bush because his morality, governing approach, and conservative values most aligned with theirs.”

The large number of blacks who crossed the color line of the Democratic Party and voted for President Bush showed that dramatic changes were happening.

In fact, only 11 percent of African Americans voted for Bush in 2004, and one year afterwards the president's approval rating among blacks dropped to 2 percent, suggesting that blacks have yet to embrace the "economic and social values" of the far Right.

Scarborough Claims Growing Movement, Shrinking Purse in Missouri Stem Cell Effort

In an e-mail to his supporters, Rick Scarborough of Vision America announces his second rally against a Missouri stem-cell research ballot initiative, to be held in Cape Girardeau, home of commentator and Rush-brother David Limbaugh. His first rally featured Alan Keyes, who compared their effort to protect embryos with African-Americans’ struggle for civil rights. Keyes will again speak at Cape Girardeau.

Our rallies are creating quite a stir in Missouri and increasingly in the national press, as the church is coming together to say in a united voice that cloning human beings for body parts is  unacceptable.

This week we were informed that CNN is sending a crew to cover our rally in St. Louis on September 28.  And this week, we added our fifth rally to be held in Springfield, Missouri, which will be hosted by the historic Central Assembly of God Church in downtown Springfield.  We have now been requested to host two additional rallies, for a total of seven rallies across the state, as the Church is increasingly uniting in this battle for curbing the growing menace of science without God. ...

We are currently finalizing details for Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family to partner with us in this effort.  The entire nation will be watching Missouri this fall and Vision America is leading the way for the cause of life!

Scarborough, however, claims that he’s feeling the pinch financially. In a solicitation for donations, he specifically complains that organizations active in electoral politics and legislative advocacy are not given the same benefits as 501(c)3 non-profits, donations to which are tax deductible. “Our battles in Missouri over the human cloning issue is a fresh reminder of how the tax exemption known in the IRS code as a 501c3 status, is crippling the church and muting her historic prophetic role in America,” he writes, threatening that he is “ready to burn our 501c3 if necessary to continue preaching righteousness and applying scripture to the great national debates of our time.” The former pastor writes, “You can help me in this battle by making the largest gift you can, and by doing it without regard to tax exemption. … You will not be able to deduct it, but I am convinced that God will bless you significantly for it.”

While Vision America may have some difficulty drawing specific attention to its Missouri campaign, it seems unlikely that the group is in abject poverty. According to its IRS filing, the group amassed $2.6 million from 2000-2003—and that was before it really established itself on the national scene during the filibuster fight, the formation of the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitution Restoration, and the “Values Voters Contract with Congress,” which was effectively taken up by the Republican leadership this summer.

Scarborough also takes time to boast that his efforts in Missouri have attracted the notice of Internet blogs:

This week I discovered that Vision America was the featured organization on People for the American Way's "Right Wing Watch" website. It seems that with all the money being spent by the left, our shoe string budget counter-offensive is increasingly being viewed as a threat.

Indeed, “Right Wing Watch” is watching Scarborough’s Missouri campaign. In Texas, Scarborough pioneered the strategy of building a network of so-called “Patriot Pastors” that mobilize their congregations to work both for ballot initiatives (like bans on same-sex marriage) and, effectively, on behalf of candidates for office. A new People For the American Way report details the “Patriot Pastor” strategy in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. With his “pastors’ briefings” and “Patriot Partners” in Missouri, Scarborough may very well be laying the groundwork for yet another “Patriot Pastors” franchise.

Manuel Miranda: A One-Man Army

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.”  Though the effort failed because of the emergence of the “Gang of 14,” Miranda pressed on, writing dozens of columns calling for the confirmation of John Roberts and, according to The Hill, almost single-handedly killing Harriet Miers’ nomination.

Irony Probably Not Intended

Concerned Women for America is demanding a vote on the nomination of William J. Haynes. 

Haynes played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s policy that it had the power to hold both American citizens and foreigners as enemy combatants and deny them the right to challenge their status in civilian courts – a policy that was just struck down by the Supreme Court.

Given all of this, one has to wonder about CWA’s choice of language

[T]he U.S. Senate needs to end the detention of Jim Haynes’ nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. President Bush nominated Haynes on September 29, 2003. The Senate Judiciary Committee referred his nomination to the full Senate on November 19, 2003.  However, a two-year filibuster has held Haynes hostage on the Senate floor, keeping him from receiving an up or down vote. Today, Haynes will endure a second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Are they really trying to compare opposition to Haynes nomination to the Bush administration’s policy of indefinite detention for enemy combatants – a policy Haynes himself was instrumental in creating?  

Syndicate content

Filibuster Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Friday 11/13/2009, 5:17pm
I guess it should come as no surprise that Erick Erickson of Red State is leading the crusade urging Senate Republicans to filibuster David Hamilton's nomination: Senator Jeff Sessions is calling on his colleagues to filibuster Judge David Hamilton. Go here and call your Senator. Tell your Senator to oppose cloture on David Hamilton and filibuster his nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. At this point, seemingly everyone on the Right who, just a few years ago, was railing against the "unconstitutional" filibuster of judicial nominees has suddenly changed their tune... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 11/10/2009, 4:55pm
Once upon a time, activists on the Right were vehemently opposed to the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees, declaring on principle that its use was flagrantly unconstitutional and calling on Senate Republicans to do away with the Democratic minority's ability to use them against President Bush's nominees. But then President Obama took office and made a Supreme Court nomination and those "principles" went right out the window and suddenly those who had been, just a few years earlier, decrying the filibuster as downright evil were championing it. Which brings us to this... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 11/02/2009, 3:01pm
Back in March, President Obama nominated David Hamilton to a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and immediately the Right set about trying to kill his nomination. They failed and Hamilton was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June and has since been waiting for a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.  And if Sen. Jeff Sessions gets his way, Hamilton won't ever get one, as Sessions is trying to round up support for a filibuster of his nomination by sending around a letter [PDF] to his colleagues laying out his opposition to the nomination which concludes with this... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 07/28/2009, 2:14pm
With Sonia Sotomayor's nomination having been voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 13-6, she is scheduled to get a floor vote next week where it is expected that she will be easily confirmed.Resigned to the inevitable, right-wing are doing all they can to spin this as a victory that will pay huge dividends in future elections:"Republicans can reap significant political benefits by voting against her confirmation and making her an issue in key races next year," conservative activist Ralph Reed told his supporters in a memo.Voters will remember that "it is a... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/20/2009, 4:09pm
The Senate Judiciary Committee has an Executive Business Meeting for tomorrow at which Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court will be on the schedule.  It is widely expected that Committee Republicans will seek a one-week delay on the vote, pushing it back until July 28th.President Obama has made it clear that he wants to see a confirmation vote in the Senate before it leaves for its August recess, which is scheduled to begin on August 10th.That would leave the Senate with a little more than a week to bring her nomination to the floor for a vote and it is assumed that efforts... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/15/2009, 2:51pm
In honor of the Committee for Justice's most recent ad basically accusing Sonia Sotomayor of being a terrorist, I thought I'd dust off the ol' archives and take a look back at the ads CFJ put together during the Bush administration.Like these newspaper ads they ran accusing Democrats of blocking Bill Pryor for religious reasons:And the accompanying radio ad:Why are some in the U.S. Senate playing politics with religion?As Alabama Attorney General, Bill Pryor regularly upheld the law even when it was at odds with his personal beliefs. Raised a Catholic, those personal beliefs are shared... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 07/14/2009, 10:08am
After disrupting yesterday's hearing, anti-choice protesters affiliated with Randall Terry are vowing more action:Next on the agenda: "Desecrate Roe" Event Details--- Where: Corner of 1st and C St., near Dirksen Senate Building entrance, Washington D.C. When: 9:00 A.M., Tuesday, July 14 Who: Norma McCorvey, Randall Terry and other DC area leaders and pro-lifers Pro-life advocates will gather at the Dirksen building at the corner of 1st and C St., to publicly desecrate the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision. Joining her will be Randall Terry, Missy Smith, and other local pro-life... MORE