Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has come out against a controversial Obama administration judicial nominee, signaling trouble for the embattled former state legislator.
Durbin told National Journal that he will be voting against the nomination of Michael Boggs to be U.S. District Court judge in Georgia. Durbin sits on the Judiciary Committee, which will have to approve of Boggs before his nomination can head to the Senate floor.
Boggs, a former Georgia Democratic state legislator, faces liberal opposition due to his past voting record and statements on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and the Confederate flag. Durbin, who had questioned Boggs during a committee hearing last week, had previously said he wanted to speak with civil-rights icon and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia before making up his mind.
Lewis released a statement this week saying that he doesn't support Boggs to serve on the federal bench. "His record is in direct opposition to everything I have stood for during my career, and his misrepresentation of that record to the committee is even more troubling," Lewis said.
That seemed to seal the deal for Durbin. "I saw [Lewis's] statement. I have not spoken with him personally. His statement was very clear," Durbin told National Journal. "I said to my colleagues from Georgia, and I said publicly afterward, that I have one phone call that was critical to my decision and that was to John Lewis of Georgia. And he was opposed to Mr. Boggs and I'm going to be voting no for the reasons that he articulated."
The nomination of Boggs to serve on the federal bench was part of a compromise deal, which includes six judicial nominees in total, put together by the White House and Georgia's two Republican senators. In exchange for Boggs, Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss agreed to release a two-year hold on a Circuit Court nominee.
"This is a recommendation from the two senators," White House press secretary Jay Carney said of the Georgia senators' choice of Boggs on Tuesday. "It is our view that he is qualified for this post. His track record as a state trial and appellate court judge demonstrates that he is qualified for the federal bench, and we obviously support his nomination."
But a growing chorus of Democrats are defying the White House on this nomination; Durbin joins Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in opposing it. Reid hasn't committed to bringing the nomination to the floor should it clear the Judiciary Committee. But Boggs's prospects could die there—the committee makeup of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans means at least two Democrats will need to back him in committee, along with all Republicans.
Last week, a number of Democrats on that committee expressed reservations in supporting Boggs. But one member, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, has signaled openness to supporting the nominee in committee. "I'm still listening," Whitehouse said. "I'm a believer in the importance of the local senators' views about their home states about district judges being respected, so it would take a pretty exceptional reason for me to violate that rule."
This article appears in the May 22, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.