“I oppose homosexual Boy Scout leaders and I support voluntary prayer in schools.”Boggs, a conservative Democrat who sits on the Georgia Court of Appeals after years as a trial judge and brief stint as a state legislator, has come under fire from reproductive rights activists, African Americans and gay rights advocates over his opposition to abortion and marriage equality, and his support for keeping the Confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia state flag. Majority Leader Harry Reid and other leading Senate Democrats, including at least three on the Judiciary Committee, have indicated they won't vote for Boggs. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn of his home state of Georgia says she opposes him.
Boggs was nominated as part of a "blue-slip" deal between President Obama and Georgia's two Republican U.S. senators. Twenty years ago, the blue-slip process—not a rule, but rather a tradition—held that a federal court nominee needed an okay from one U.S. senator in his or her state. This okay came as a signature on a blue-colored form sent to senators by the Judiciary Committee. Playing their new hardball game after their devastating defeat of congressional Democrats in 1994, Republicans started requiring two blue slips in 1995, making it easier to block Bill Clinton's nominees.
When Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont abandoned the GOP in 2001, Democrats obtained a Senate plurality and returned to the two-slip rule. Come 2003, Republicans regained the majority and chose to dump the blue-slip process altogether, allowing hearings on nominees whether or not a senator from their state had given them a thumbs-up. Democrats vowed to filibuster nominees and demanded a return to the two-slip rule. In 2007, Democrats won back the majority and the new Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy stuck with the two-slip rule.
Which is where we foolishly are today. Even with the filibuster on nominees dumped, there are far too many vacant federal judgeships. To reduce those vacancies, the White House agreed to the Georgia deal that got Boggs, four other potential district judges and two federal circuit court choices nominated.
While that deal may produce some good circuit court judges, Boggs is an awful nominee, a parody of what a good Democratic nominee should be. A parody but no joke. Because federal judgeships are lifetime appointments and he's a relatively young fellow, he could be problematic for decades.
This should never happen again. The Judiciary Committee should vote against Michael Boggs. But, just as important, the arcane blue-slip process is a tradition that should be done away with.