This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five nominees to serve on federal district courts in New York, California and Florida and on the US Court of International Trade. A week ago, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley postponed votes on all five nominations without giving a reason, a delaying tactic that he has used on 97 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees who the committee has voted on.
Sen. Grassley did not explain the reason for the delay last week, when a coalition of Iowa and national groups urged him to stop such routine delays. And the reason remained unclear today, as all five nominees were approved without opposition.
These five nominees now join fifteen other federal judicial nominees awaiting confirmation votes from the full Senate. The Senate has made progress by scheduling confirmation votes on four unopposed district court nominees in the past week, but that small amount of progress isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaps in overworked federal courts. Seven of the nominees still waiting for votes would fill officially-designated “judicial emergencies.”
It would be easy, of course, for the Senate to hold votes on all of the remaining nominees before the end of the year. After all, most were approved by the Judiciary Committee many months ago. But Senate Republicans have continued to stall even nominees with strong bipartisan support. All the circuit court nominees waiting for votes have the support of their home-state senators, Republican and Democratic, and nearly all of the pending district court nominees were approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or nearly unanimous bipartisan support. One circuit court nominee, New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz, has been waiting nine months just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate; Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto has also been waiting since March.
If the Senate fails to vote on these nominees during the lame duck, the confirmation process – from presidential nomination through floor vote – will have to start all over again next year.
Notable about the district court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee today is that all are women or people of color, representative of President Obama’s efforts to bring diversity to the federal courts. The nominees also include New York’s Pamela Chen, who would become just the fifth openly gay person to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.
Jacksonville, Florida – Florida members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council today said they were “appalled but not surprised” by a Palm Beach Post report this weekend that restrictions on Florida early voting and voter registration were explicitly intended for partisan gain. The Post interviewed current and former GOP officials who said the restrictions were targeted at African American voters, and specifically at turnout operations at black churches.
“There’s a reason African Americans stood in line for hours on Nov. 6,” said Elder Lee Harris, Pastor of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville. “We knew that these early voting and voter registration restrictions were meant to keep us away from the polls. But we’ve come too far and fought too hard to let anybody take away our vote again.”
The African American Ministers Leadership Council worked to bring African Americans throughout the country to the polls through the nonpartisan “I am a VESSEL and I Vote!” program.
“I am appalled but sadly not surprised by these officials’ admissions that their goal was purely to suppress the African American vote,” continued Elder Harris. “Even while cloaked in the dubious language of ‘voter fraud,’ the real reason for these measures was always clear. African Americans in Florida knew that, and we fought back – by voting.”
Papers in Florida have been reporting recently on a curious DVD that has been turning up in mailboxes across the state. The video is none other than Joel Gilbert’s “Dreams From My Real Father,” a “documentary” narrated by a fictional Barack Obama claiming that Obama’s mother’s marriage to Barack Obama Sr. was a sham meant to cover up her relationship with labor activist and communist organizer Frank Marshall Davis, the president's "real father." Gilbert previously boasted that he sent the DVD to a million households across Ohio, but declines to divulge who is paying for his marketing campaign.
On Friday, Palm Beach’s WPTV reported that Gilbert’s film has managed to swing at least one Florida voter.
When Ron and Judy Cindrick received what was billed as "a must-watch DVD" in their mailbox, they decided to see what "Dreams from My Real Father" was all about.
Judy said what she saw shocked her.
"I was absolutely appalled when I began to watch this and they began to show pictures of Barack Obama's mother, his supposed mother, naked," she said.
Ron said watching the pseudo-documentary turns his stomach, and his vote. He believes the Obama conspiracy-type film has to be politically motivated.
"I am a registered Republican, and as of today, I will vote for Barack Obama after receiving this DVD," said Ron.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the film has also been showing up in mailboxes in Nevada and New Hampshire. In an interview with a Florida radio show on Saturday, Gilbert claimed a version of the film on Netflix Instant Play has been watched by 200,000 people.
A federal judge in Florida yesterday said that he will permanently block new restrictions on voter registration drives that have suppressed registration in the months leading up to the 2012 election. The new restrictions had all but shut down voter registration efforts by major civic engagement groups in Florida.
Elder Lee Harris of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville, a member of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement:
“My fellow church leaders and I have been working to get everybody in our community to participate in our democracy. Unfortunately, some of our elected officials want to discourage new voters and drive people away from the polls, rather than drawing new voters in. Discouraging civic participation is a cynical and short-sighted way to try to win an election. Yesterday’s ruling means that more people will have more opportunities to register to vote. This decision is good for Florida, and good for our democracy.”
Mitt Romney’s relationship with the Tea Party, despite his embrace of their positions on a range of issues, is famously awkward. Yesterday’s Unity Rally 2012 was no exception.
Our next speaker is here on behalf of a guy you may have heard of. His name is Mitt Romney. He’s here to ask for your vote for this particular man for, uh, I believe it’s president of the United States.
Conservative talk show host Neal Boortz, speaking at yesterday’s Unity Rally 2012 in Tampa ahead of the Republican National Convention, denounced public schools as “government schools” that are “forced upon us.” Boortz blamed “100 years of government education” for bringing America “to the point that a man like Barack Obama could be sworn in as president of the United States.”
Boortz directed the crowd to change the way they speak about public schools – calling them “government schools” instead. He also called on the audience to “preach school choice,” by which meant efforts to defund public schools and provide taxpayer dollars for religious and private schools and homeschooling.
Let me change your language on two things. […]They are not public schools, they are government schools. They are owned by, staffed by, operated by and forced upon by the government.And, ladies and gentlemen, it is 100 years of government education that led us to the point that a man like Barack Obama could be sworn in as president of the United States.So, wherever you are, preach school choice.
Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, speaking at yesterday’s Unity Rally 2012 in Tampa ahead of the Republican National Convention, claimed that President Obama and Congressional Democrats are out to destroy the country. Phillips told the crowd that Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are socialists who support a system that causes “poverty, tyranny and occasionally mass murder:”
This nation has done more good for more people than any other nation in the world. And this is the nation that Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi want to diminish and destroy.Today, freedom and liberty stand in opposition to socialism. You know, the primary products of the system that Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi love so well are poverty, tyranny and occasionally mass murder.These are the fruits of socialism, and to the socialists we have simply one word, "no!"Friends, we are not going to go quietly into that dark night of socialist tyranny.
Jacksonville, Fla. – The African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a national coalition of African American clergy, today praised a federal court’s decision to strike down Florida early voting restrictions in five counties that would disproportionately affect African American voters.
“Sadly, the voter suppression tactics that the Voting Rights Act was meant to combat are alive and well in Florida,” said Elder Lee Harris of Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville. “But thanks to the Voting Rights Act, those trying to suppress the African American vote in Florida aren’t going to get away with it. The court was right to apply the act to what was a blatant attempt to keep African Americans from the polls.”
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Florida legislature’s decision to cut early voting from 12 days to eight, for as little as six hours a day (potentially all during the standard workday), violated section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal review of voting rights changes in states and counties with a history of voter discrimination. The court’s decision applies just to the five counties covered under section 5 --Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe. The panel said it would approve a plan where the five counties held early voting open for 12 hours a day for each of the 8 days.
“Thanks to this sound decision, which we urge Gov. Scott to accept, Black voters in five counties will reclaim access to the ballot box during these critical early voting days,” continued Elder Harris. “However, residents of counties not covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – including Duval County – continue to face these suppressive new rules. We urge officials in all of Florida’s counties to adopt the same early voting opportunities as approved by the court.”
The African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, founded in 1997, has been working nationwide to help bring African Americans to the polls in every election, most recently through the newly-launched non-partisan “I Am A VESSEL and I Vote!” program.
The results are in from Tuesday’s primaries, and People For the American Way is proud to commend seven Young Elected Progressives endorsees on their victories.
In Connecticut, PFAW applauds Assemblymen Matthew Lesser and James Albis, both running for reelection. Lesser, of Connecticut’s 100th district, has been a proven advocate for the middle class, education, and equal rights since he was first elected in 2010. Albis, a tireless voice for seniors and the middle class, was first elected in a 2011 special election. Both assemblymen face challengers in November, but are continuing their momentum into the fall’s general election.
PFAW also extends its congratulations to five YEP endorsees who emerged victorious in primary elections in Florida: Dwight Bullard, Andrew Gillum, John Alvarez, Leo Cruz, and Ricardo Rangel. While Bullard, winner of this year’s Barbara Jordan Leadership Award given by affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s YEO Network program, defeated four primary challengers in the state Senate’s 39th district, Gillum, YEO Network National Director, defeated three challengers to his Tallahassee city commission seat in a landslide victory. Elsewhere, openly gay state House candidate Alvarez continues to shatter ceilings, advancing onto the general election after an exciting 15 point victory. Cruz and Rangel, state Senate and House hopefuls, respectively, now also face challengers in November.
For more information on PFAW’s other Young Elected Progressives endorsees, click here, and be sure support these strong progressive voices!
Jack Hakimian is a Florida pastor who is turning into something of a Religious Right martyr after the North Miami public schools rebuked him for delivering anti-gay screeds on school property. Today, Hakimian took his case to American Family Radio, where he complained of “censorship” by gay groups. He said gay rights advocates “know that if we keep debating from biology, from theology and from sociology that homosexuality is not a healthy lifestyle, it’s not God’s plan, we will persuade people’s minds,” and so those advocates “want to destroy our presence.”