One of the recurring arguments for electing a Democratic president is the legacy of judicial appointments that a president leaves behind. The federal judiciary presently has a rightward slant with judges whose appointments that go back to the Reagan administration. We are all familiar with the perennial gridlock in the senate that keeps nominees on indefinite hold. The usual expectation is that under a Democratic president this is about Republicans blocking the appointment of liberal judges. Now we have the situation of liberal groups attempting to block the appointments of President Obama.
The Obama administration is facing a liberal revolt in the Senate over two high-priority judicial nominations, potentially jeopardizing its push to shape the federal judiciary in advance of the midterm congressional election.
The disputes, which involve hot-button issues including abortion, the Confederate flag and drones, could come to a head as early as Tuesday.
On one side, the White House is standing behind deals with Republican senators that were designed to allow several nominations to move forward. On the other side are some liberal groups, including the ACLU and NARAL Pro-Choice America, which find themselves for the first time in open conflict with the Obama administration over its choices for the federal bench.
Liberals are incensed that the administration is pushing hard for Michael Boggs, a judge on Georgia's state Court of Appeals, to join the federal bench in Georgia. Boggs, a conservative Democrat, voted while in the state Legislature to reinstate a version of the Confederate flag as the state flag, opposed same-sex marriage and took positions on abortion that critics say would have limited women's rights.
His nomination "will go down in history as one of the worst acts of this president," said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), a centrist African American who represents Atlanta suburbs.
Women's groups are equally upset, saying legislation Boggs sponsored would have required parents to attend their teenagers' abortions and that he supported legislation to define children as "both born and unborn."There is also a controversy about Harvard law professor David Barron who is seen as having provided legal justification for the killing of US citizens in drone attacks. He has also made enemies among conservatives with his criticisms of Chief Justice Roberts.
The Boggs nomination seems to be clearly connected to what have traditionally been core issues for the Democratic base. Boggs was not Obama's first choice. His nominees from Georgia have been blocked for several years. He was trying to make a deal with Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. This looks like another case of Obama trying to make a bipartisan deal and then finding that he has painted himself into a corner.
It will be interesting to see how this turns out.