Top Democratic leaders in the Senate have announced their opposition to — or sound like they need to be convinced into supporting — the confirmation of a White House judicial pick who faces liberal opposition. And they want to speak to House member and civil-rights icon John Lewis of Georgia about it before they go any further.
Majority Leader Harry Reid told BuzzFeed on Wednesday that he’s opposed to the nomination of Michael Boggs to a Georgia federal District Court. Boggs cast votes as a Democratic state legislator on issues such as abortion, the Confederate flag, and same-sex marriage that cut against Democratic priorities. Reid said he planned to speak about the matter with Lewis, who has previously been vocal in his opposition to Boggs. “John Lewis is my man in Georgia,” Reid said.
The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, said Wednesday that he he wanted to speak with Lewis before making up his mind. Durbin sits on the Judiciary Committee and questioned Boggs about his vote as a state legislator to have the Confederate flag on the Georgia flag.
“I want to talk over some of the things Judge Boggs said yesterday,” Durbin said. “John Lewis is my friend, and any federal judge in his state, where there are questions raised about race — I wouldn’t consider a final vote until I talk to him personally.”
Lewis is a beloved figure on the Hill, regarded highly by Democrats and Republicans alike and well respected on civil-rights issues. Lewis was beaten and suffered injuries during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He was a leader in the movement during its height, serving as chairman the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and delivering a speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
The Georgia Democrat still plays an active role on civil-rights and racial matters on the Hill. He’s leading the push to pass a rewrite of a portion of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year. High-ranking Republicans, such as Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have lately been emphasizing their relationships with Lewis.
Lewis, along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly voiced opposition to Boggs’s nomination when Obama made it in December. Lewis and others held a press conference to denounce the nomination at the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. once presided, and called on Obama to withdraw the nomination.
But Senate Democrats have now turned their focus on deciding whether to approve the nomination, rather than on getting the White House to withdraw it. And it’s unclear whether Lewis will push back hard now. The House is currently on recess, but before lawmakers departed Washington, Lewis declined to elaborate on the upcoming Senate hearing. “We have our hands full on this side,” Lewis told The Hill.
The scheduling of Tuesday’s hearing on the nomination took many CBC members by surprise. The committee record remains open for a week, so lawmakers still have time to submit questions.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Wednesday that he hadn’t reviewed the hearing record (he passed the gavel to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Boggs critic, to chair the hearing). The committee’s split of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans means that Boggs could fail to advance to the full Senate if his nomination faces broad, immediate Democratic opposition.
Given Reid’s opposition, Leahy responded, “Every senator has got a right to do what they feel is best.”
The nomination came out of a deal the White House struck with Georgia’s two Republican senators, who agreed to release a two-year hold they had on a Circuit Court nominee in return for the nomination. A number of other nominees are also included in the deal, but the Boggs nomination remains the most controversial; on Tuesday, Boggs faced scrutiny from Democrats over his record as a state legislator on votes ranging from same-sex marriage to abortion.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said that Reid’s and Durbin’s desire to speak with Lewis first “is fine. I think everybody should do their due diligence.”
“We worked very hard to come up with a great package with the White House. I trust the president’s judgment, [White House Counsel Kathryn] Ruemmle’s judgment. All seven [nominees] are very qualified,” Isakson said. “Every member ought to make their own determination.”
Leahy has emphasized that senators are free to vote their conscience on the nomination and that he was not part of the deal the White House made. Both he and Durbin said early Wednesday evening they have not heard from the White House since the hearing.
“They don’t bother to ask me about judges, so I wouldn’t imagine they would [call],” Leahy said. “They’re very busy people. They only talk to important senators.”
Perhaps if White House officials really want Boggs’s nomination to go through — and the administration did reiterate its support this week — they should talk to Lewis about it, too.
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."