people for the american way

Edit Memo: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way

Re: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

Date: March 13, 2012

Senate Democrats are taking action this week to call Republicans on their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees, which over the past three years has left far too many of our nation's courtrooms empty. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture petitions in an attempt to end the GOP filibusters of all 17 district court nominees currently waiting for Senate votes, most of whom have been stalled for over three months for absolutely no reason. And already, Senate Republicans have concocted a false spin in an attempt to cover for the mess they have helped to create in the federal courts.

Reid’s action is unprecedented: only two district court nominees were filibustered in the sixteen years of the Bush and Clinton presidencies. As of yesterday, nineteen of President Obama’s district court nominees have been filibustered.

If Republicans don’t back down and allow up-or-down votes on these nominees, the cumbersome cloture process will tie up the senate until early April – and it will become very clear to the American people that Republicans’ top priority is gridlock, not policy.

In response, Senate Republicans have united behind a message that seeks to blame President Obama for the gridlock they created. Their claim is that their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees is a direct response to President Obama’s recess appointments of a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and members of the National Labor Relations Board -- appointments that they neglect to mention were themselves necessary because of Republican obstruction.

This narrative is simply not true. Even a cursory look at the last three years shows that today’s Republican obstruction is not related to their fury at the president’s recess appointments. In fact, these unprecedented levels of obstruction have been going on since President Obama took office. By the end of 2011, before the recess appointments, President Obama's confirmed district court nominees had been stalled more than four times longer on average than President Bush's. That is the case today, as well.

The unjustified delays in 2009-2011 were hardly caused by recess appointments made in 2012.

Make no mistake: the Senate GOP’s obstruction of judicial nominees is part of a deeply cynical effort to create gridlock in Washington and to keep as many courtrooms empty for as long as possible in the hopes of having a Republican president fill them in 2013.

Our federal courts are now facing a historic vacancy crisis, and Americans are facing unjustified delays as they seek their day in court. Senate Republicans should ditch the false excuses for their obstruction, and start doing the job they were elected to do.

Press Contact: Miranda Blue, (202) 467-4999, media@pfaw.org.

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Unbridled Republican Obstruction Forces Extraordinary Action on Judicial Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he will file petitions to end Republican filibusters of 17 federal district court nominees. The extraordinary move highlights Senate Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees. During the entire 16 years that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office, there were only two filibusters of district court nominations. If Senate Republicans don’t relent on these 17 nominees, the cloture process could tie up the Senate through early April, with each nominee taking 30 hours of floor time under Senate rules.

“It is absolutely stunning that Republicans are willing to tie up Senate business for more than 510 hours just to make things more difficult for President Obama,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “For the past three years, Senate Republicans have been slow-walking judicial nominees at every step of the process, ignoring the duties they were elected to office to perform and contributing to a historic vacancy crisis in our federal courts. Ultimately, it’s the American people, who rely on fair and functioning federal courts, who pay the price for these political games.”

At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, the average district court nominee waited 22 days between approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee and a vote from the full Senate. Under President Obama, the average wait has been more than four times as long – over three months.

Currently, about one in ten seats on the federal courts is vacant, affecting access to justice for over 160 million Americans.

 

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50 Organizations Present Letter to Congress Requesting Hearings on Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

CONTACT: Justin Greenberg, PFAW at (202) 467-4999 / media@pfaw.org or Dorry Samuels, Public Citizen at (202) 588-7742 / dsamuels@citizen.org

WASHINGTON – Reflecting the millions of Americans concerned about the undue influence wielded by corporations and wealthy special interests in our democracy, 50 organizations have jointly signed and presented a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees requesting hearings to explore constitutional remedies to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases. This letter follows over 350 events in 49 states – from teach-ins to courthouse protests – organized by many of signing groups to call attention to the negative effects of Citizens United on the second anniversary of the decision.

“In Citizens United, the Court ruled that corporations are guaranteed the same free speech rights as real people to influence elections, thereby ruling that governmental restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections are invalid and unconstitutional,” the letter reads. While disclosure legislation may mitigate some of the damage of this decision, “Only amending the Constitution can fully secure the American people’s authority to regulate corporate influence in our elections and restore our democracy.”

“Americans have become increasingly distressed at the toxic effects of unrestrained corporate and special interest money that is influencing our political system,” and are demanding action from our elected representatives. So far in the 112th Congress, 13 constitutional amendment resolutions have been introduced, and dozens more have been passed at the state and local level. “As activists have mobilized and protested across the country,” the letter states, “it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the Court’s decision,” and advance “the critical debate about how the Constitution should be amended to return our democracy to the people.”

Signatories to the letter include People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, MoveOn.org, Free Speech For People, Move to Amend, Public Campaign, Greenpeace and African American Ministers In Action. Please follow the links to the full letters to the House and Senate.

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PFAW Commends Ninth Circuit Ruling on Prop 8

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with a lower court that California's anti-equality Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

PFAW Applauds Obama's Endorsement of Constitutional Amendment

People For the American Way today applauded President Obama for his support for amending the Constitution to repair the damage done by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and stop unlimited corporate spending to influence elections.

Groups Deliver Over 100,000 Petitions to NH Attorney General Urging Him to Investigate O’Keefe and Enforce Voter Fraud Laws

PFAW, Daily Kos and Granite State Progress delivered over 100,000 petitions to the NH Attorney General urging him to investigate James O’Keefe and enforce voter fraud laws

Press Conference and Petition Drop: Tell the New Hampshire Attorney General to Investigate James O'Keefe

On Thursday, February 2nd, a coalition of groups including People For the American Way, Daily Kos and Granite State Progress will deliver over 100,000  petitions to New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney, calling on him to conduct a full investigation of the alleged voter fraud conducted by activist James O’Keefe.

Under Pressure, Boykin Withdraws From West Point Address

After an outcry from veterans, cadets and progressive groups, Jerry Boykin has withdrawn from West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast. Boykin, who was formally reprimanded by President George W. Bush for describing military efforts as a holy war against Islam while in uniform, became a fulltime anti-Muslim activist since leaving the military. People For the American Way president Michael Keegan criticized Boykin’s “hate-filled conspiracy theories,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations knocked Boykin’s promotion of “a host of false and misleading 'facts' about Islam” and VoteVets maintained that Boykin’s views are “inconsistent with current Army doctrine” and “disrespect the services of thousands of Muslim-Americans” who serve in the ilitary. Erick Eckholm of the New York Times reports:

Lt. Gen William G. Boykin “has decided to withdraw speaking at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast” on Feb. 8, said a statement issued Monday by the academy’s office of public affairs. “In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the United States Military Academy will feature another speaker for the event.”



A similar controversy erupted last week, in the days before General Boykin spoke at the mayor’s annual prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Md. The general made no inflammatory statements about Islam, instead describing how prayer had helped him through dangerous military operations.

But Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, said the West Point invitation was a mistake. West Point, Mr. Montgomery said, would have given “a platform to someone who is publicly identified with offensive comments about Muslims and about the commander in chief.”

Right Wing Watch has documented Boykin’s long history of making inflammatory statements. Boykin has claimed that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment” and said that Muslims are “under an obligation to destroy our Constitution”:

He has also said that mosques should be banned in America and dubbed Islam “a totalitarian way of life” during an interview with far-right talk show host Bryan Fischer:

Moreover, Boykin has urged Christians should not engage in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and should instead “go on the offensive” against Islam. He has even directed his vitriol at President Obama, comparing him to Adolf Hitler and warning that he is using the health care reforms law to create a personal Brownshirt army:

With his extremist comments now receiving national attention, Boykin is now trying to disguise his views, calling Muslims a “precious people” and insisting that he respects “their right to worship.” But Boykin may have trouble walking back from his past incendiary statements as he once proudly proclaimed: “I am intolerant!”

Ohio Groups Meet with White House to Discuss Deepening Crisis in the Courts, Judicial Nominations

Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives from over a dozen Ohio social justice, legal and community action organizations from every part of the state participated in a conference call with White House staff today to discuss growing concern about the ongoing crisis in the federal courts.

A Movement Moment: Growing Support for Overturning Citizens United

Over 60 organizations have joined United For the People, a grassroots movement to overturn Citizens United v. FEC

Over 60 Organizations Join United For the People

Petition Drop at Lowe's HQ -- 42,000 PFAW Members Call on Company to Reject Bigotry

People For the American Way joined with a multifaith coalition to deliver petitions containing over 200,000 signatures to Lowe's Home Improvement's corporate headquarters. 42,000 members of People For the American Way joined together to call on CEO Robert Niblock to reject the bigotry of right-wing extremists and reinstate its ads on TLC's "All-American Muslim."

Senate GOP Again Moves Goalposts on Judicial Nominees, Leaves 21 Unconfirmed at End of Session

The Senate ended its 2011 session on Saturday, leaving 21 judicial nominees on its calendar. All but two of the abandoned nominees were supported by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee. Under none of the previous four presidents has the Senate left noncontroversial nominees without a vote at the end of a session.

PFAW: In Ohio, a Resounding Victory for Voters over the Corporate Right

Voters in Ohio today voted resoundingly to repeal SB5, the anti-labor bill pushed through the state’s Republican legislature earlier this year.

PFAW Applauds Progress on Judicial Nominations, Urges Senate to Vote on Remaining Nominees

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

“Senator Reid took an important step last month when he stood up to Republican obstructionism and pressured the Senate to confirm ten highly qualified judicial nominees,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “Unfortunately, since then the nominations backlog has returned to its previous size. The Senate should make it a priority to completely clear the current nominations backlog. Holding a vote on all 27 nominees currently on the calendar would provide desperately needed assistance to strained courts throughout the country and demonstrate Congress’s ability to do its job.

“Senate Republicans have made a habit of delaying President Obama’s judicial nominees hostage for as long as possible. This obstructionism is bad for the American people, who depend on both an efficient justice system and an effective legislature. It’s time for the Senate to do its job and hold votes on these 27 nominees.”

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Who’s Who at the Values Voter Summit: A Guide to the Anti-Gay, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Mormon, Anti-Choice Activists Spending the Weekend with the GOP

This weekend, nearly every major GOP presidential candidate, along with the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives, will speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of the leaders of the Religious Right movement to integrate fundamentalist Christianity and American politics.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards Introduces Constitutional Amendment To Reverse Citizens United

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) introduced a constitutional amendment that would restore to Congress and the states the authority to regulate corporate spending on political activity, including contributions in support of or in opposition to a candidate for public office. This proposed amendment seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s deeply flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporations the same Free Speech rights as people to spend money to influence elections. The amendment is similar to one introduced in the last Congress, and was introduced with the support of 14 other co-sponsors.

“We applaud this bold step by Representatives Edwards and Conyers to place limits on the corporate spending on elections which is hurtling out of control. It is time that we take down the for sale sign on our democracy and constitutional remedies such as that proposed by Representatives Edwards and Conyers are the only meaningful way to do that,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way. “Reversing the damage caused by Citizens United is absolutely crucial to making sure that the American people – and not the deepest-pocketed corporations – hold the keys to our democracy. The pro-corporate Supreme Court is taking us down a slippery slope, and it’s time for bold steps to preserve the democratic promise of government by the people.”

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