George W. Bush

PFAW Memo: Senate Needs to Confirm Pending Judicial Nominees

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: September 15, 2014
Subject: Senate Needs to Confirm Pending Judicial Nominees

There is probably little more than a week before the Senate goes out on recess until after the election. One of the most important – and undoubtedly quickest and easiest – things it can do before then is confirm 16 judicial nominees, most of whom have overwhelming bipartisan support.
                                                                                      
One of the most important responsibilities of the United States Senate is to maintain a functioning federal court system. District courts are the backbone of the American judicial system. They are where people turn when they feel their rights have been violated. “Having your day in court” is an essential part of the American ideal. But that ideal cannot be met if we don’t have enough judges to make it happen. Even if every vacancy in the country were filled tomorrow, it wouldn’t be enough: The Judicial Conference of the United States – the entity responsible for assessing the federal courts’ ability to effectively manage their caseloads – has urged Congress to create an additional 85 district court judgeships. So when an existing vacancy can be filled with a qualified nominee, it ought to be done with dispatch.

Right now, nominees for 16 such vacancies can be confirmed within the next few days. Seven of these were fully vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee and have been waiting for a floor vote since June or July. Of these seven, all but one of them advanced without any opposition. Four alone are from Georgia: nominees who have the unanimous support of the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic and Republican senators. There are no more questions to ask of these nominees, except when they will be allowed to take up their judicial responsibilities and fill empty courtrooms in Georgia, New York, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

The remaining nine were scheduled for a committee vote last week, having had their confirmation hearings back in July. They have been nominated for judgeships in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Four of them – nearly half – would serve in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a state with so many vacancies that it alone accounts for 15% of the nation’s total, but Chairman Leahy was forced by the GOP to delay the vote. Republicans gave no reason for the delay, but they rarely do: Since President Obama took office, Republicans have exercised the right of the minority party to have a committee vote “held over” (delayed) by at least a week without cause for nearly all of his judicial nominees, part of their overall mechanism of obstruction. Fortunately, they are expected to get their overdue committee approval later this week.

There remains plenty of time to confirm all 16 nominees before the Senate goes out for its pre-election recess next week.

The fact that we are heading into an election is no reason not to hold these confirmation votes. In fact, in September of 2008, a presidential election year – and the twilight of George W. Bush’s presidency, no less – Democrats rushed several of his nominees through to make sure they got confirmed before recess (and before his presidency ended). Ten of Bush’s district court nominees were confirmed just one day after being approved by the Judiciary Committee. All ten had had their committee hearings earlier that same month – in some cases, during that same week. The confirmation votes took hardly any time at all, since all ten were considered and confirmed as a bloc by unanimous consent.

Interestingly, three of those 2008 nominees were from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where four of the current 16 nominees could be serving by next week, if given the chance.

Republicans still have a chance to demonstrate that they can prioritize the functioning of the U.S. court system over their own partisan interests. But it seems unlikely. Since last year, the GOP has insisted that no judicial nominee, despite their bipartisan support, advance on the Senate floor without time-consuming cloture votes and roll-call confirmation votes. And it isn’t just the roll-call votes that take time (although each one can take nearly an hour). Without unanimous consent to waive the chamber’s time requirements, cloture votes cannot be held until two days after cloture petitions are filed, and each confirmation vote requires at least an hour of needless “post-cloture debate” even after the filibuster is broken.

If Republicans successfully prevent votes this month, the earliest the courtrooms will see some relief will be in a potential lame duck session.  That means another two month wait until clearly qualified nominees are  able to take their seats in courtrooms around the country.  There is simply no good reason for such delay.
 

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Why Aren't Gay People More Grateful To Nice Guy George W. Bush?

We learn in today’s POLITICO Magazine story, “Inside George W. Bush’s Closet,” that President George W. Bush is a really nice guy.

Such a nice guy, in fact, that we should look past his egregious gay-rights record as president because he was just so darn nice to everybody, even gay people! That is what politics is all about, after all, and anyone who sees differently is obviously just blinded by their own hatred and animus, because Bush is an objectively good man.

“We all were making our voices heard despite what was out in the press,” says Chris Edwards, who came out while working in the White House press advance office and introduced his boyfriend to the president and first lady on multiple occasions. “People say, ‘Just don’t work for him.’ Well, that’s just not reality. The reality is you need people in the party and outside the party to make change.”

George W. Bush started out as perhaps the most gay-friendly Republican president ever, an astonishing fact when you consider that, in his first year in office, 71 percent of Republicans thought homosexual behavior was morally wrong, according to Gallup. There’s no question that he recoiled at the gay-bashing of the religious right. “I’m not going to kick gays,” he told a friend before the 2000 campaign. “I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.” The party’s platform that year might have talked about the sanctity of traditional marriage as a foundation of American democracy, but this was nonetheless a president who, a few months before nailing down his party’s nomination in 2000, met in Austin with a dozen gay Republican leaders, proclaiming afterward, “I am a better person for the meeting.”



“What liberals can’t wrap their heads around is Bush is a good and decent man,” says Jeff Berkowitz, an opposition researcher and policy ace who worked in the White House, State Department and RNC during Bush’s presidency. “It’s possible for someone to hold a policy view as he did and still be a decent, normal person.” Berkowitz says that when he was “outed” by blogger Michael Rogers, whose campaign to publicize what he saw as the hypocrisy of gay Republican operatives was chronicled in the 2009 documentary Outrage, Bush staffers flocked to show their support. “It was great for networking,” he laughs. And besides, he says, he wasn’t in the closet at the time anyway.



If Rove saw political gain, other Bush aides saw a legal preemptive strike—against exactly the court-driven change that is now playing out. “The president’s position was that gay marriage could be imposed on the country by a federal court decision. One judge could do it,” says McConnell, the speechwriter, who is also a lawyer. McConnell says he understood that after a 2003 Massachusetts court ruling raised the issue, then-White House counsel Gonzales advised that “the only way to prevent that is a marriage amendment. It’s not an unreasonable position. It certainly was not anti-gay.”



But McConnell says Bush’s position on gay marriage was a reasonable combination of his personal concept of “morality” and the central GOP concept of frowning on an activist judiciary.

McConnell matter-of-factly told me he likely helped write Bush’s 2004 remarks endorsing the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Even now the gay speechwriter defends that course. “I believed the president was taking a principled position, and the words he spoke on that issue were always reasonable and tolerant. That hasn’t always been the spirit of the debate, but it’s always been the spirit of George W. Bush. There was never a day I wasn’t proud of him and the vice president.”

Bush’s Court: How the D.C. Circuit Threatens the Future of Progressive Reform

WASHINGTON – Four years into President Obama’s presidency, he has yet to  have a single judge confirmed to the hugely influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This lapse, caused initially by a slow start from the administration but perpetuated by a blockade of obstruction in the Senate, threatens to hinder progressive advances for years to come, argues a new report from People For the American Way.

The report, AMERICA’S PROGRESS AT RISK: RESTORING BALANCE TO THE DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, can be found here: http://www.pfaw.org/media-center/publications/america-s-progress-risk-restoring-balance-dc-circuit-court-appeals

“The D.C. Circuit is the most important court most Americans have never heard of,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “The D.C. Circuit’s judges have the final word on scores of federal laws each year, from air pollution controls to financial regulations to workers’ rights. Republicans have long understood this, and have packed the court with far-right ideologues who threaten to hold back American progress for decades to come.  And they have so far blocked confirmation of judges who would bring any balance to this court." 

President Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to fail to have a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit during his first full term in office, despite the fact that four of the eleven seats on the court are now vacant. His first nominee to the court, the indisputably qualified Caitlin Halligan, was twice blocked by Senate Republicans for reasons widely recognized as spurious.

As a result, the D.C. Circuit continues to be dominated by judges pushing a right-wing ideology long rejected by the American people. The right-wing majority of the D.C. Circuit has continuously sought to dismantle progressive efforts to defend consumers, protect public health, and ensure the rights of workers. Recent D.C. Circuit decisions highlighted in the report include:

  • Noel Canning v. NLRB:  In January, the D.C. Circuit invalidated three presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, undermining the Board’s ability to protect the rights of workers and giving the green light to Senate Republicans who wish to decimate any federal agency by blocking appointees.
  • EME Homer City Generation v. EPA: In 2012, the D.C. Circuit sided with utility companies to strike down EPA air pollution regulations that would have prevented an estimated 34,000 premature deaths and saved $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.
  • Business Roundtable v. SEC: In 2011, the D.C. Circuit overturned an SEC rule requiring greater accountability from corporations to their shareholders in selecting board members. One observer noted that in doing so the judges – none of them securities experts – had “waded into a political fight under the guise of dispassionate scientific oversight.”
  • RJ Reynolds Tobacco v. FDA: Last year, the D.C. Circuit ruled that FDA regulations requiring cigarette manufacturers to place graphic, factually accurate warnings on their product violated tobacco companies’ First Amendment free speech rights.
  • Hein Hettinga v. USA: George W. Bush nominee Janice Rogers Brown used a case about milk market regulation last year to issue a call to arms against eight decades of progressive reforms. Courts that have allowed the government to implement reasonable regulations of industry have, she said, put “property…at the mercy of pillagers.”

“President Obama has a chance in his second term to restore ideological balance to the D.C. Circuit,” added Marge Baker. “It is critically important that he do so. Otherwise, D.C. Circuit will continue to stand in the way of progressive reforms -- reforms chosen by American voters -- and threaten to roll back decades of hard-won protections for working people and consumers."
 

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A Movement’s Katrina Moment

Romney's comments about the 47% are a clarifying moment that can forever change how Americans view him, his party, and the corporate right.
PFAW

Bush in 2007: Unelected Judges Making Law are a Threat to Democracy

Earlier this week, President Obama predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of healthcare reform legislation, saying it would be unprecedented that "an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

And now Republicans and the Right and even sitting judges are throwing tantrums, accusing Obama of attempting to "intimidate" the Supreme Court. 

Can we just point out that one of the central platforms [PDF] of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was that he was literally going to arrest federal judges who issued rulings that he didn't like and ignore Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed?

Oddly, nobody on the Right uttered a peep when Gingrich made those threats ... nor did they voice any outrage back in 2007 when President George W. Bush addressed the Federalist Society and warned that unelected judges legislating from the bench represented a "threat to our democracy": 

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.

For the judiciary, resisting this temptation is particularly important, because it's the only branch that is unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop.

Tim Goeglein Says George W. Bush Possessed an Aristotelian "Greatness of Soul"

For eight years, Timothy Goeglein served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison where he served as the middle man between the Oval Office and the Religious Right.

Goeglein served in this capacity until it was discovered that he had plagarized several columns he had been writing for an Indiana newspaper over the years and he subsequently resigned, eventually landing a new job as the main lobbyist for Focus on the Family.

Since leaving the White House, Goeglein has not been shy about proclaiming his undying admiration for his former boss, calling President Bush the "most pro-life and pro-family president in the history of the United States" and a "great thinker" who was "the instrument in God's hand" that kept America safe and who will one day be recognized by historians as one of the nation's greatest leaders.

Goeglein has now written a book about his time with Bush entitled "The Man in the Middle: An Inside Account of Faith and Politics in the George W. Bush Era" and this week is a guest on Liberty Counsel's "Faith and Freedom" radio program where he is promoting.

And judging by today's episode, Goeglein's love of President Bush has in no way abated, as he declared that Bush was one of those men who possessed an Aristotelian "a greatness of soul":

The Human Toll: How Individual Americans Have Fared at the Hands of Bush Judges

People For the American Way Foundation has documented in a series of reports the damage that Bush nominated judges have done to the Constitution — and to Americans' ability to seek and expect justice in the federal courts when challenging unlawful treatment by corporations, government agencies, and other powerful entities. This report looks at a selection of cases with an eye to the human cost of a federal judiciary dominated by an ideology that is all too willing to sacrifice individual rights and legal protections.

Prop 8's Call to Extremism

A report examining Lou Engle, a leader in the right-wing fight to pass Proposition 8 in California, and his extremist brand of "Dominionist" Christianity.

McCain Brags about His Support of Bush Judges

In response to a question today in Lima, OH, Senator John McCain turned the subject to the Supreme Court and bragged about his support of George W. Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court. In response, People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert said, "It's clear that John McCain is trying to polish his anti-choice credentials by highlighting his support for George W. Bush's judges."

“Independent” John Sununu Rubberstamped 100% of George Bush’s Right-Wing Judges

In New Hampshire, the state Republican Party attempted to defend Senator John Sununu’s support of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito by calling Sununu “an independent voice for New Hampshire.” People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, “If John Sununu is an independent voice, why has he voted for every single one of President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominees? On the most important votes he’s taken confirming nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench, he’s voted in lockstep with George W. Bush. He’s certainly distinguished himself as one of President Bush’s most loyal allies; he can’t reasonably be called ‘independent.’”

PFAW Ads Target Sununu’s Record on Judges

People For the American Way will begin running radio ads next week in New Hampshire focusing on Senator John Sununu’s support of George Bush's ulta-conservative nominees to the Supreme Court, and releasing a web video with the same theme.

McCain Sticks to Bush Script on Judges

Sen. John McCain’s speech about judges today stuck to the script written by right-wing ideologues and followed by President George W. Bush. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, "Here’s what McCain was really telling the party base: If you liked George W. Bush’s nominees, you’re going to love the judges John McCain will put on the bench."

Flaws and Failings

In early 2004, Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, an omnibus appropriations act that also created a new federally-funded school voucher program in the District of Columbia, the first such federally-funded voucher program in the country.

Undermining the Bill of Rights: The Bush Administration Detention Policy

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments concerning the Executive Branch's right to unilaterally strip citizens of core constitutional rights. People For the American Way Foundation believes the government's "enemy combatants" and detention policies -- the heart of the case before the high court -- violate fundamental principles enshrined in our Constitution, such as the separation of powers and due process of law, and actually threaten progress in the war on terror and America's campaign for greater freedom and democracy around the world. Read the powerful new PFAWF report on these policies.

PFAW Report on William G. Myers III

Mining, coal and cattle industry lobbyist William G. Myers III is President Bush’s latest nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Myers has amassed an incredible record of promoting environmental degradation and harm to the interests of Native Americans, both from his position as an industry lobbyist and from a short stint as solicitor for the Bush Administration Department of the Interior.

Confirmed Judges Confirm Our Worst Fears

This report shows that many of the George W. Bush's nominees that have already been confirmed to lifetime seats on the federal judiciary threaten the rights of ordinary Americans.

The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft As Attorney General of the United States: Part II

An examination of John Ashcroft's record as Governor and Attorney General of the state of Missouri.

The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States: PART I

On January 4, People For the American Way published an overview of John Ashcroft's six-year record in the United States Senate. The report shows clearly that John Ashcroft does not meet the high standards of fairness and integrity required of the Attorney General. He has not demonstrated a sufficient commitment to equal justice under the law to be entrusted with upholding the Constitution and our nation's civil rights laws.

John Ashcroft's First Six Months at the Justice Department: The Right Wing Dream Team Takes Over

This report examines the nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General by President George W. Bush. Based on Ashcroft's record as a senator and as Missouri state attorney general and governor, public interest advocates believed that Ashcroft was a right-wing ideologue who should not be entrusted with overseeing the enforcement of laws and the protection of constitutional guarantees affecting civil rights, civil liberties, religious liberty, reproductive rights, environmental protection, and more.

John Ashcroft's First Year as Attorney General

In January 2001, a remarkably broad coalition of civil rights and other public interest organizations opposed the confirmation of John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General. People For the American Way helped lead that effort. One year later, Ashcroft has done much to ensure his legacy as a right-wing ideologue who is willing to bend the Constitution and laws to his worldview, disregard the constitutional principle of checks and balances, and endanger Americans' basic rights and freedoms.

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