Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio Is The Real Victim Of The Gay Rights Movement

In an attempt to woo social conservatives in advance of a possible presidential bid, Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a speech at Catholic University today, where he attempted to come across as a uniter on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights while assuring his party’s right flank that he agrees with their hardline policy positions.

The Florida Republican drew heavily from the Religious Right’s persecution narrative to claim that while LGBT people have faced discrimination in the past, he and fellow opponents of marriage equality are now the victims of widespread “intolerance.”

“We should acknowledge that our nation is marred by a history of discrimination against gays and lesbians,” he said. “There was once a time when our federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required federal contractors to identify and fire them. Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants, and many states carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay marriages.”

“Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then,” he continued. “Many committed gay and lesbian couples feel humiliated by the law’s failure to recognize their relationship as a marriage, and supporters of same-sex marriage argue that laws banning same-sex marriage are discrimination. I respect their arguments, and I would concede that they pose a legitimate question for lawmakers and society.”

But now, according to Rubio, it is gay-rights opponents whose rights are under attack.

He criticized judges who are “redefining marriage from the bench,” claiming that pro-marriage-equality decisions take away the rights of “Americans like myself” who oppose same-sex marriage: “Those who support same-sex marriage have a right to lobby their state legislature to change its laws. But Americans like myself who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage also have the right to work to keep the traditional definition of marriage in our laws without seeing them overturned by a judge.”

Calling tolerance a “two-way street,” he lamented that “today there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage.”

“I promise you that even before this speech is over, I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who’s anti-gay,” he said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay. It is pro-traditional marriage.”

The theme was repeated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, and Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance, who joined a panel discussion after Rubio’s speech.

“I think the myth of somehow those who are concerned about these issues from a more conservative standpoint are simply going to evaporate, I think that that is actually fueling some of the things that Sen. Rubio talked about right now, when he did talk about this growing intolerance of those who would define marriage as a conjugal union of a man and a woman,” Moore said.

Nance praised Rubio for his “unifying” message, as opposed to the “divisive” tone of President Obama whom she said “has pitted gays against straights”:

“I believe that this president has been so divisive for this nation. He has pitted men against women, he has pitted wealthy against poor, he has pitted gays against straights, and I was so happy and encouraged by the tone that Sen. Rubio took. It was a unifying message that he gave us today, and I think it was a winning message.”

Sen. Rubio’s office has posted video of his remarks. His comments on LGBT equality and abortion rights begin about 13 minutes in:

Fox News' Monica Crowley: Left At War With America

Monica Crowley of Fox News served as the emcee for a “legislative luncheon” that kicked off the “Road to Majority” conference sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The speakers’ lineup – Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Allen West, and John Bolton – promised a butcher shop’s worth of red meat for right-wing activists, and Crowley must have decided she didn’t want to be overshadowed.

She complained that she has both a Marxist president and mayor (New York’s Bill de Blasio) and asserted that “we are in a war…the left is waging a 24/7 war against this country.” She said the fight is not only against leftism and statism, but against “the ideology of control.” Health care reform was not about health care, but about government power and control. “Every day of this presidency has been an impeachable offense – every day.”

Crowley could be unintentionally funny, as when she railed, without any apparent sense of irony, that the left relies on divisiveness and “manufactured” crises, then a few moments later ticked off a set of the right wing’s favorite manufactured crises.  Or when she complained that the mainstream media is too partisan, saying that the Obama administration has gotten away with ravaging the Constitution because of “the protection racket of a corrupt and supine press.” Or when she called people like Ralph Reed and Ted Cruz “truth tellers.”

She managed to hit on just about every current right-wing meme, from Benghazi to the IRS, from illegal immigration to “the removal of God from public life.” The Obama administration, she says, is engaged in “the deliberate takedown of America.”

In introducing the “brilliant” and “beautiful” Crowley, Ralph Reed noted that she has recently been named online opinion editor for the Washington Times, a major sponsor of the anti-marriage-equality rally that the National Organization for Marriage was holding at that very moment in front of the US Capitol.

Right Wing Round-Up - 5/15/14

Marco Rubio Fails Florida, Doesn't Help Florida Judicial Nominees

Rubio lets his party delay the filling of four emergency judicial vacancies with consensus nominees who he recommended.
PFAW

Obstruction 2.0: How Republican Senators Continue to Block Judicial Nominations Post-“Filibuster Reform”

Tuesday afternoon, PFAW hosted a special member telebriefing on the continued GOP obstruction of judicial nominees. The briefing featured PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon. They discussed how Republicans’ obstruction has reached staggering levels, despite changes in Senate filibuster rules.

Marge gave a brief background on the issue of GOP obstruction of judicial nominations, explaining how important federal judgeships are for deciding many issues that affect everyday Americans and defining why Republicans are determined to continue obstruction confirmations of judicial nominees. Their underlying goal is to keep as many seats empty as possible so a President Cruz or Rubio can fill them with right-wing ideologues.

She addressed the current narrative that President Obama has had more confirmations at this time than Bush had, and explained that these numbers need to be put in the context of the fact that Obama has had around 70 more vacancies to fill than his predecessor. That means for Obama’s confirmation results to be seen as equivalent to those of President Bush, he would have had to have many more nominees confirmed at this point in his presidency.

Paul began a discussion of some of the choke methods Republicans are employing to block the confirmation of President Obama's nominees to the bench. Paul delineated how all too often, GOP senators do not cooperate with the White House to suggest candidates for nomination, delaying the process from the very beginning. Once nominees are made and are sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have seen GOP Senators delay the hearing by not submitting their blue slips, an unofficial tradition that gives home state Senators an opportunity to express their support for the nominee.

Marge explained ways in which Republicans are delaying the process once nominees are in committee, where the minority is allowed to request one-week delays. To express the magnitude of the obstruction, Marge explained how of the 270 nominees who have had a vote during President Obama's term, only 11 have had their votes held on time.

Once on the Senate floor, the situation doesn't get better as senators are able to filibuster nominees by refusing to give unanimous consent to the simple act of holding a yes-or-no confirmation vote. To offset these delays, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been forced to file for cloture. Since the rules change in November, there have been cloture votes on all the nominees, adding hours of senate time in post-cloture debates (30 hours per circuit court nominee).

Marge highlighted that if all 30 nominees on the floor were voted on today, which is possible, then the number of current vacancies would drop precipitously, down to the level at this point in George W. Bush’s presidency. It is essential that these be voted on now, and that confirmation votes for nominations coming out of committee be voted on expeditiously.

Fielding questions from PFAW members, Marge and Paul discussed particular cases of obstruction like that of William Thomas's nomination in Florida, where Senator Marco Rubio withheld his blue slip in support of the nominee-–one that he himself had recommended in the first place. Members also made the connection between the effect of big money in politics and the motivations for GOP senators to obstruct confirmations, and attempted to find ways in which everyday Americans can make their voices heard to their senators regarding the issues of obstruction in judicial nominations. Paul used the example of the DC Circuit Court fight, where with the activism from people across the country rallying together helped get all the court's vacancies filled.

Marge and Paul, along with PFAW members, emphasized how as activists, we can intervene in the fight to take back our democracy by letting Senators know that average Americans are paying attention, watching how they respond and vote on judicial nominations, and considering who may be pulling their strings. For instance, a caller in Florida wanting to influence Marco Rubio could call his office and ask him to prevent a delay in a committee vote for nominees to fill four emergency vacancies. And everyone, regardless of whether there are vacancies in their state, can call their senators and call for the quick confirmation of the large number of nominees awaiting a floor vote. She also highlighted what is at stake in this mid-term election since the officials we elect today will help confirm the judges that will decide important cases that affect average Americans. For this reason, it is important to have demographic and experiential diversity in the courts so judges making decisions understand the impact of the law on regular Americans.

Click here more information on our Fair and Just Courts campaign.

PFAW

Will Marco Rubio Let His Colleagues Delay Four Florida Judicial Nominees?

With a dire need to fill emergency vacancies in Florida, will Rubio ask the GOP not to delay a committee vote on four Florida judicial nominees?
PFAW

Marco Rubio Doesn't Believe In Constitutional Separation Of Church And State

In a discussion with Eric Metaxas at last year’s Florida Family Policy Council summit, Sen. Marco Rubio said that the separation of church and state is a myth, arguing that the First Amendment only precludes an “officially sanctioned denomination.”

“This notion of separation between church and state, you won’t find those words in the Constitution,” Rubio said. “That doesn’t mean that we should have an officially sanctioned denomination.”

Rubio warned that “there is an effort to silence those or to crowd out of its rightful place the role of the faith community in our country. The government cannot tell you what faith to belong to but it cannot tell you that it cannot speak about your faith.”

Of course, the Constitution also doesn’t include words like “separation of powers” and “checks and balances,” but that doesn’t mean that those principles aren’t in the Constitution.

Rubio also seems to think that the drafters of the Constitution only meant to prevent the government from sanctioning one religious denomination over another. But the founders actually rejected language about “establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another” (same with “religious society” and “national church”) in favor of the more broad First Amendment’s prohibition of the “establishment of religion.”

Rubio's Delay Increases Urgency of Florida Judicial Nominations

Early this year, President Obama nominated Judge Beth Bloom, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza, and Paul G. Byron to the Southern and Middle District Courts of Florida. Of the four vacancies in the Southern District, three have been declared judicial emergencies. The situation in Florida is so dire that even if every vacancy were to be filled tomorrow, it would not be enough to take care of the courts’ growing workloads. In fact, the Judicial Conference has requested a number of new judgeships for the state, including:

• 5 new judgeships for the Middle District, plus a temporary judgeship; and
• 3 new judgeships for the Southern District, plus the conversion of a temporary judgeship to a permanent position.

It is imperative that these nominations be confirmed swiftly; the Senate’s delays in confirming nominees translate to delays for Floridians waiting for their day in court.

Sen. Marco Rubio stated on NPR last month that he did “not anticipate having any objection to moving forward on any of [President Obama’s] nominees” for the district courts in Florida. In fact, the nominees were recommended by Sen. Rubio, along with Sen. Bill Nelson, based upon the recommendations of a bipartisan committee the two senators put together. Yet to date Sen. Rubio –unlike Sen. Nelson—has not signed the “blue slips” the Senate Judiciary Committee customarily requires before nominees are given a committee hearing. This is cause for some concern in light of Sen. Rubio’s refusal last year to sign off on other Florida nominees to seats that he himself had recommended.

Rubio’s slow-walking of his “blue slips” comes in the context of the GOP obstruction that has needlessly delayed the confirmation of most Obama nominees. After committee approval, President Obama’s district court nominees have been forced to wait an average of three times longer for a confirmation vote than President George W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency. Obama’s circuit court nominees are forced to wait nearly two months longer than Bush’s. This slowing down of the process seems completely gratuitous and politically motivated since the overwhelming majority of Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed unanimously or near-unanimously.

The current nominees are also important because they represent much-needed diversity in the federal courts. Gayles, for example, would be the first openly gay African-American man on the federal bench. However, with Rubio’s history of unfavorable treatment of previous nominees he has recommended, there is little expectation that he will help move this nomination process forward any faster. Gayles is up for the same seat to which William Thomas, also an openly gay African American man, was nominated in November 2012, a nomination that Rubio sabotaged.

Some were expecting these four Florida nominees (who were nominated in early February) to have their committee hearings this week, but because Rubio has not submitted his blue slips, that will not happen.

We join advocacy groups in Florida in urging Rubio to help get the state’s nominees confirmed as soon as possible.
 

PFAW

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote

Get ready. There’s more Republican obstruction on the way.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts.

The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. That means that going forward, two of three judges on these panels could be visiting from someplace else, potentially outvoting the one 11th Circuit judge. It is vital that Judge Rosenbaum be confirmed in a timely manner. And that starts with a timely committee vote.

But it’s unlikely that’s enough reason for GOP Senators to drop their campaign of endless delays for judicial nominations.

Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in.

Rosenbaum is from Florida, which gives Rubio a special responsibility to urge Republican senators on the committee not to delay the vote. It is a chance for him to prioritize his constituents over politics. Similarly, Sessions, who represents a state (Alabama) covered by the 11th Circuit, also has a unique responsibility, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, to avoid such needless delay.

Will either Rubio or Sessions step up and help move the process in a more functional direction? We’ll learn on Thursday, but if past events are a predictor of future behavior, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
 

PFAW

Rubio Unconvincingly Explains Why He Blocked Openly Gay African-American Judicial Nominee

Earlier this month, the White House returned to the Senate 54 federal judicial nominees who Senate Republicans had refused to vote on in the previous year. But one nominee was conspicuously absent from that list: Judge William Thomas, a Florida state judge who had been nominated to sit on a federal trial court.

At first, Thomas’ nomination seemed like a slam dunk: He is an experienced, respected judge who was nominated in 2012 with the support of both of Florida’s senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. He also would have been the first openly gay black man to sit on the federal bench.

Then, mysteriously, Rubio changed his mind. Taking advantage of a Senate Judiciary Committee policy that allows any senator to block a committee hearing on any nominee from his or her home state, Rubio unilaterally refused to allow a hearing on Thomas. For months, the senator refused to explain why he was blocking Thomas’ nomination, until finally this summer a spokesperson cited “questions about [the nominee’s] judicial temperament and his willingness to impose appropriate criminal sentences.”

Rubio’s office provided two examples of instances in which they believed that Thomas didn’t impose “appropriate criminal sentences.” In both cases, Thomas imposed the highest sentence sought by the prosecution; in both cases, prosecutors praised his handling of the trials. Rubio's staff also claimed that in one of those cases, a grisly murder trial, Thomas “broke down in tears” when sentencing the defendant to death; news reports make clear that the judge's tears came when he was describing the brutal crime. As Chris Hayes put it, none of these complaints “pass the smell test.”

Now, finally, Rubio himself has gone on the record for the first time about why he blocked Thomas’ nomination. In an interview with Michael Putney, political reporter for the Miami-area Local 10 news, Rubio, looking visibly uncomfortable, repeats his office’s talking points about the two criminal cases they allege Judge Thomas imposed insufficiently harsh sentences in. “We are looking for judges that can accurately apply the law, particularly at the federal level,” Rubio said, never quite explaining how Thomas failed to do that.

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This isn’t the first time that Rubio has blocked a Florida judicial nominee for less than convincing reasons. Rubio similarly changed his mind about Florida nominee Brian Davis – who is also African-American – at the behest of Sen. Chuck Grassley . Under pressure from local activists, Rubio eventually changed his mind again and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward.

As Hayes said, it seems like the most likely explanation is that Judge Thomas was merely an “innocent bystander” in Rubio’s desperate race to win back the right-wing support he lost during his short-lived advocacy for immigration reform – an effort that so far isn’t panning out so well.

Rubio Should Not Have the Last Word on Florida Nominee

Why did Marco Rubio unfairly attack qualified nominee William Thomas while denying him a chance to correct the record? (VIDEO)
PFAW

Right Wing Round-Up - 11/18/13

  • PFAW: GOP Exceeds Expectations…on Executive Branch Obstruction.
  • Jeremy Hooper: Video: Sen. Rubio keynotes for rabidly anti-LGBT org; org. advocates 'leaving the gay lifestyle.'
  • Towleroad: Sally Kern's Husband Arranges Prayer Protest Of Gay-Themed Play in Oklahoma.
  • Zack Ford @ Think Progress: Liz Cheney Fuels Family Feud By Continuing To Oppose Marriage Equality.
  • Sarah Posner @ Religion Dispatches: Kenneth Copeland's Protectors.
  • Cristan Williams @ The Transadvocate: Colleen Francis and the infamous Evergreen State College incident.
  • HRC: National Organization for Marriage Withholding Key Financial Documents in Violation of Federal Law.

Marco Rubio To Headline Anti-Gay Fundraiser

The Florida Family Policy Council announced today that it will host Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at its 2013 Annual Dinner. The FFPC is led by John Stemberger, the anti-gay activist who most recently helped launch a Boy Scouts splinter group that will ban openly gay youth, and the fundraiser will honor Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver.

Stemberger and Staver are far outside of the mainstream, but with Rubio preparing for a possible presidential run in 2016 he may use this event, much like his speech at the Values Voter Summit, to soothe any doubts about his right-wing credentials.

Stemberger previously chaired Florida for Marriage, which spearheaded the campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, and founded the anti-gay Boy Scout alternative Trail Life USA. Earlier in his career as a lawyer, he was widely criticized for misconduct in the Rifqa Barry case.

Stemberger has a long record of incendiary anti-gay rhetoric. He:

  • Said that people are gay because they think it is “hip” and “cool.”
  • Alleged that affirming LGBT youth is “tantamount to abuse” and “an abuse to that child.”

We noted Staver’s radicalism and involvement in a kidnapping case in our profile of him for the 2013 Values Voter Summit:

Mat Staver is the head of the Liberty University School of Law and its legal affiliate, Liberty Counsel, a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit. Liberty Counsel has beenimplicated in the Lisa Miller kidnapping case, where a client kidnapped her daughter and fled to Central America after a court granted custody to her former partner. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government in order to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and western civilization. Through his role at Liberty Counsel, Staver has:

Numbers USA To Marco Rubio: Too Little, Too Late

Sen. Marco Rubio’s politically transparent U-turn on immigration reform may not be paying dividends among anti-immigrant activists as he would have hoped. The Florida Republican recently came out against the very comprehensive reform legislation he sponsored and helped pass in the Senate, but one of the country’s top opponents of his bill think it’s too little, too late.

NumbersUSA Director of Government Relations Rosemary Jenks told Sandy Rios yesterday that Rubio has already “poisoned the well” and now her group will urge congressman to vote against any immigration bill coming out of the House.

Rios: Do you think that Marco Rubio’s shift, slight shift, is helpful?

Jenks: Unfortunately, Rubio set out his positions in the Gang of 8 bill and that bill has essentially poisoned the well. We can’t go forward with a piecemeal approach now because that bill is sitting there, waiting for the House to pass any immigration bill so that Harry Reid can take that bill and substitute in S. 744, the Senate Gang of 8 bill, and then send it back to the House for a conference. That’s the path. So at this point, because that bill has poisoned the well, it’s too late for Marco Rubio to say, ‘oh you know I believed in a piecemeal approach all along and that’s what we should do.

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/28/13

Rubio: There Is A 'Rising Tide Of Intolerance' Against Conservative Christians

Speaking at the Values Voter Summit, Sen. Marco Rubio told the audience that they can never stop fighting for their social values if they hope to save this nation and complained that there is a "rising tide of intolerance" that is being directed against anyone who stands up for them.

Laughably claiming that the Christian conservative agenda is "not about imposing our religion on anyone," Rubio said people in America have a right to worship any way they choose, but he chooses to "believe that Jesus Christ is God," which elicited a thirty second standing ovation:

Religious Right Will Cheer Tea Party Extremism at Values Voter Summit

Boehner threatens the global economy w/ default, the Tea Party shutdown continues & a new Supreme Court term could do harm to campaign finance, reproductive choice & church-state separation...perfect week for the Values Voter Summit!

Civil Rights Groups Urge GOP Leaders to Skip Values Voter Summit

This weekend, Religious Right leaders and GOP politicians will gather in Washington for the Values Voter Summit, an annual event that highlights the cozy relationship between Republican elected officials and extreme right-wing groups.

The event is hosted by the Family Research Council, a group with a long record of pushing false anti-gay propaganda. And one of the event’s major sponsors is the American Family Association, whose extreme right-wing views are expressed on a daily basis by its spokesman Bryan Fischer.

On Friday, People For the American Way joined with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Faithful America, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza to send a letter to every public official scheduled to speak at this year’s Values Voter Summit, urging them to withdraw from the event.

Among the scheduled speakers are Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Tim Scott and Reps. Paul Ryan, Randy Forbes, Michele Bachmann, Jim Bridenstine, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Steve King, Steve Scalise and Scott Turner.

The letter [pdf] reads in part:

We understand that you’ve been invited to speak at the upcoming Values Voter Summit being held in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 11-13. Given the demonizing lies about the LGBT community spread by the host, the Family Research Council (FRC), and another major sponsor of the event, the American Family Association (AFA), we urge you to not lend the prestige of your office to the summit.

The FRC has amassed an extensive record of vilifying gays and lesbians with falsehoods – portraying them as sick, evil, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation.  Perhaps its most insidious claim is that gay men molest children at a far higher rate than heterosexual men – a claim refuted by all credible scientific authorities, including the American Psychological Association. Yet the FRC has continued to smear gays and lesbians by claiming  that pedophilia, in the words of FRC President Tony Perkins, “is a homosexual problem.”

Perkins also says the “It Gets Better” campaign, an initiative designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow, is “disgusting” and part of a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.” One senior FRC official has even argued that homosexuality should be illegal.

The AFA’s Bryan Fischer, who serves as the group’s spokesman and director of issue analysis, frequently blames homosexuality for the Holocaust and Nazi Party: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.” He also promotes the views of the American architect of the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Demonizing the LGBT community has consequences. As FBI data demonstrate, it is one of the groups most likely to be victimized by violent hate crimes. Defaming them publicly day after day – as the FRC and the AFA do – only throws fuel on the fire.

The bigotry of the FRC and the AFA is not limited to gays and lesbians. Fischer, for example, has said that African Americans “rut like rabbits” and argued that women should be kicked out of politics and the military. He’s also stated that Hispanics are “socialists by nature”  and come here to “plunder” our country. The FRC’s executive vice president, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, has said Jews must be converted to Christianity and has argued that “Islam is not a religion and does not deserve First Amendment protections” – a statement that is antithetical to American ideals.

In 2011, we urged Mitt Romney not to share a stage with the extremists, and particularly Fischer, at that year’s Values Voter Summit. Although Romney still attended, he also made a point of calling out Fischer’s “poisonous language." This year, Fischer was noticeably not listed as a speaker at the summit, although his employer remains a sponsor.
 

Right Wing Round-Up - 9/24/13

Rubio Holding Up Nomination of Openly Gay African American Florida Judge

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has for months been single-handedly holding up the nomination of William Thomas, an openly gay African American Miami judge, to a federal district court.

Rubio’s indefinite hold on Thomas’ nomination is one of the most egregious examples yet of Senate Republicans using the obscure “blue slip” procedure to prevent home-state judicial nominees from even having a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under a Senate custom that has varied over time Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not advance a nominees’ consideration --  won’t even hold a hearing, let alone take a vote -- until both of that nominee’s home-state senators return a “blue slip” giving their permission for a nomination to go forward. The blue slip doesn’t indicate a senator’s approval of the nominee – the senator is still free to vote against the nominee and to lobby their fellow senators to do the same.  It just means that the nominee can be considered by the Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate. But if just one senator doesn’t return a blue slip, the nomination won’t see the light of day.

Republican senators have been routinely using this tactic of withholding blue slips in order to slow-walk President Obama’s judicial nominees. Currently, five nominees are being held back because one or both senators have refused to return blue slips. And all are women or people of color.

Because the blue slip process is secretive and little-known, senators are often able to get away with holding nominees this way with little public pressure and no public explanation.

Rubio, however, faced pressure from the Florida legal community in recent weeks for his failure to return blue slips for Thomas and another Florida nominee, Brian Davis. The senator finally gave in under pressure and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward, but is digging in his heels on his blockade of Thomas.

Rubio’s stated reasons for blocking Thomas’ nomination are exceptionally flimsy. He has cited  two cases where he claims Thomas gave insufficiently harsh sentences in criminal trials; in one case, even the prosecutor has defended Thomas’ judgment and a local judge has written to Rubio to correct the record. In the other case the senator cites, Judge Thomas sentenced the defendant to death, which Rubio seems to think was insufficiently harsh. It is clear that there is no merit to the senator’s claims. Holding hearings on this nominee would help clarify that, if they were allowed to take place.

The real reason for Rubio’s blockade and his smear of Judge Thomas’ character, writes Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, is plain and simple “crass Tea Party politics.”

Rubio has stated no compelling reason why Thomas should not have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, where he can answer any of Rubio’s alleged concerns in the public record. 

PFAW
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