Brownback and Neff: Round II

For five months, we have been keeping an eye on Sen. Sam Brownback’s opposition to Janet Neff, nominated by President Bush to serve on the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan, solely because she attended a lesbian commitment ceremony in 2002.  

In that time, Brownback has engaged in a series of stalling tactics and issued constantly-shifting demands in an attempt to prevent her confirmation: first placing a hold on her nomination, then demanding that she recuse herself from specific cases, then calling for a second hearing, then saying he just wanted an opportunity to debate and vote on her nomination on the Senate floor, then warning again that he wanted her to face a second hearing.

Because of Brownback’s stalling, Neff and a dozen other nominees failed to receive a Senate vote during the last session of Congress and their nominations were returned to the White House. 

Well, President Bush has now renominated Neff and Brownback is back to pledging that he won’t place a hold on her nomination this time around:

Brownback spokesman Brian Hart said the senator would not place another hold on Neff. Brownback intends to ask Senate leadership for a floor debate on her nomination and an up-or-down vote, he said.

Whether or nor Brownback upholds this pledge remains to be seen, but considering that the Right is unimpressed by the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls and that his primary concern right now is how to gather support his long-shot presidential bid, there is an obvious temptation for him to try and carve out a niche as the Right’s standard-bearer, which is exactly what he appears to be doing: 

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback introduced himself to state voters Monday as a “full-scale conservative” and made no apologies for his hardline stances against taxes, abortion and gay marriage.

Keep in mind that the only thing the Right seems to like more than fighting over judges is criticizing anything having to do with gays – and a battle over Neff could satisfy both of these urges. 

Perhaps in renominating Neff, President Bush has just handed Brownback an opportunity to rally the right-wing supporters that his campaign so desperately needs.