Nevada

Ted Cruz: Bundy Ranch Standoff 'Tragic Culmination' Of Obama's 'Jackboot of Authoritarianism'

In an interview with Texas radio host Chad Hasty yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz said that the armed standoff between anti-government militias and the Bureau of Land Management at a Nevada ranch is the “unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government upon.”

Rancher Cliven Bundy failed to pay federal grazing fees for over 20 years because he refused to recognize federal authority over the land he was using. When the Bureau of Land Management started to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal land, militia members gathered at his ranch and staged an armed standoff with federal officials, which Bundy threatened could turn into a “range war” or another Waco. The agency eventually backed down in order to prevent violence, but militia members havestayed at the ranch and the event has emboldened the anti-government militia movement.

When Hasty asked Cruz about the Bundy standoff, the senator conceded that “the details of the Bundy matter may be complicated,” but insisted “the reason this issue is resonating…is that for five years, we have seen our liberty under assault. We have seen our liberty under assault from a federal government that seems hell-bent on expanding its authority over every aspect of our lives.”

“It is in that context that people are viewing this battle with the federal government,” he said. “We should have a federal government protecting the liberty of the citizens, not using the jackboot of authoritarianism to come against the citizens. And I think this is the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government upon.”

Nevada GOPer Claims Republicans Can Win Young Voters By Embracing Party's 'Pat Robertson Wing'

Upset that the Nevada Republican Party recently voted to remove anti-choice, anti-gay language from its official platform, GOP state assemblyman Ira Hansen took to The Janet Mefferd Show yesterday to argue that the party made a grave mistake in avoiding such social issues.

Hansen said that Republicans are failing to win support from young voters because they are “being alienated partially because of this absence of values.” He argued that Republicans could win support from new voters by embracing the “Pat Robertson wing” of the party.

That’s right, Hansen thinks the GOP politicians would become more competitive among youth if they were only more like Pat Robertson.

We don’t see that younger recruitment into the party. I think they are actually being alienated partially by this absence of values. I also think as people get older, they lose some of their drive to fight, I think that’s even true of the pro-life, traditional marriage type crowd. I think they are basically not just shell-shocked but there’s like — you know what, I’ve been fighting this twenty, thirty years; me, I’ve been involved in the Republican Party virtually since I was eighteen, going back to the Reagan era. But I’d probably say in Nevada you still see a big strong element going back to the Pat Robertson campaign in 1988, and that was when there was a huge fight here in Nevada between the Rockefeller wing of the party, as I call them, and the Pat Robertson wing. And with time the Robertson wing won and you had these social issues openly adopted by the Republican Party. And, by the way, in the ‘90s and 2000s, the Republican Party actually did very, very well in Nevada with those in the platform.

Richard Mack: Government Brought In 'Paid Hit Men' To 'Fire On Innocent And Unarmed People' At Nevada Ranch

Richard Mack, the Arizona sheriff who earlier this week compared the stand of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management with “Rosa Parks refusing to get off the bus ”and even the Holocaust, told Alan Colmes yesterday that the federal government brought “paid hit men” to Bundy’s ranch who were “ready to fire on innocent and unarmed people.”

The Fox Radio host asked Mack, “We can agree or disagree about how much the government should own in terms of federal property, but is this the way to go about changing it?

Mack responded that Bundy’s stand “was peaceful until it got escalated by the federal government in bringing out paid hit men, mercenaries, and you know, getting violent.”

When Colmes asked Mack if he had evidence to substantiate his claim that the government had brought in mercenaries to face down the militia members at Bundy’s ranch, Mack responded, “we have our intel sources” and insisted that “they were there with the military weapons and they were there ready to fire on innocent and unarmed people.”

The rumor that the BLM hired mercenaries to confront Bundy has been spreading through far-right blogs. Mack made a similar claim in an interview published in Talking Points Memo today.

Sheriff Richard Mack Compares Armed Nevada Ranch Protesters To Rosa Parks

Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack – Arizona’s second most notorious birther sheriff –of course traveled to Nevada this week to join rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management .

In an interview with Iowa talk show host Steve Deace on Monday, Mack compared the militia groups standing with Bundy to Rosa Parks and suggested that if reinforcements had not arrived, the Bundy family would have fallen victim to Holocaust-like violence.

Deace told Mack that the Nevada standoff was a “warning shot” and “a test to see if their efforts over the last 40 years to dumb you down in academia and pop culture and install the idiocracy” had succeeded.

Mack replied that it was. “This was Rosa Parks refusing to get to the back of the bus,” he said. 

Deace: I think this is a test to see if their efforts over the last 40 years to dumb you down in academia and pop culture and install the idiocracy – and that’s their numbing agent – to see if you are now compliant to the point of just saying, ‘Nothing we can do, the almighty state has spoken.’ I think this is a warning shot.

Mack: Well, I think it is too, and I think that everything they do is based on this kind of propaganda scheme of the warning shots and trying to make sure other peasants don’t rise up with their pitchforks. Well, this particular peasant said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m not rolling over for this one. You guys are out of line, you don’t own the land, you don’t own our ranch, you don’t own us, and we will stand firm in the principles of freedom that we were blessed with as Americans.’ And that’s exactly what this was. This was Rosa Parks refusing to get to the back of the bus.

Later, the two moved on to criticizing the BLM employees who were sent to enforce a court order to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal land because the rancher has refused to pay grazing fees since 1993. “Any tyrant anywhere is only as good as the collaborating bureaucrats under his command that are willing to actually carry through with his orders,” Deace said. “‘Just following orders’ is the tagline of every tyrannical government in the history of human civilization.”

Mack agreed, noting that a similar defense had been attempted in the Nuremberg trials. “The soldiers that were put on trial at Nuremberg used that as a defense, and it was disallowed,” he said. “They said anybody should know you don’t get to just kill people and then claim that you were just following orders. And same thing for all of this.”

He then claimed that if the militias hadn’t shown up at the Bundy ranch, the family would have been shot.

Deace : They can give all the unconstitutional edicts from Washington, DC, all they want. Any tyrant anywhere is only as good as the collaborating bureaucrats under his command that are willing to actually carry through with his orders. And that’s the part about this that bothers me. ‘Just following orders’ is the tagline of every tyrannical government in the history of human civilization.

Mack: Well, in fact that’s a quote, and I know you know this, but it’s a quote from the Nuremberg trials regarding the Holocaust. And the soldiers that were put on trial at Nuremberg used that as a defense, and it was disallowed. They said anybody should know you don’t get to just kill people and then claim that you were just following orders.

And same thing for all of this. We’re supposed to be the ones in the world that are above such. This is the United States of America, where the rights of the individual are protected by the rest of us in government. And now we have the actual government officials doing just the opposite and almost bragging about it. And so, what I do know is that the people who showed up en masse protected this family and others from being shot.

Voting Rights Advocates Rack Up More Wins

Earlier this month, PFAW reported on what has gone right for voting rights at the state level in 2014. While there is much more work to be done to enact needed reforms and to step up and counter threats when the right to vote is under attack, states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina have shown that we can win. Now we've uncovered even more evidence of why we can and should keep fighting the challenges that lay before us.
PFAW

'I Want Nothing To Do With You,' Beck Tells Those Threatening Violence In Anti-Government Standoff

While just about the entire right-wing movement has rallied behind Cliven Bundy, the Nevada cattle rancher locked in a battle with the federal government over his refusal to recognize the government's control over public grazing lands, Glenn Beck, of all people, is refusing to do so.

This showdown ought to be the sort of thing that Beck eagerly embraces and you can tell that it is causing his extreme consternation not to be able to do so, but he is very concerned about the fact that the anti-government forces that have lined up behind Bundy are issuing threats of violence, which is why he penned an open letter over the weekend saying that he cannot side with them and, instead, calling for people to turn to God:

I do not mean to lecture you or anyone else. I am so far away from a perfect man. In fact I am very much the “dispensable man”, the opposite of the man I am striving to be, but I am working on it. I pour over my scriptures like never before. I rarely am with out them. I read them day and night, in bed, in the car, on the set, and at the dinner table and yet I am a million miles from where The Lord needs his people. For this too, I repent. ”I am sorry Lord for not being ready for your call.” I am one that is finding there is no oil in my lamp.

Never try to create your own miracles. Every time you will fail and make it worse. Moses thought he would make it better when he killed the Egyptian but it only delayed freedom.

I worry about the rancher and his family. The ranchers around him and all around the country. I was blowing the warning trumpets on this kind of usurpation long ago. But any fan of mine knows that I have also said that I will never call for arms with the state of our faith.

I, too, am a rancher but the ultimate rancher is God and we are His flock. I will follow His voice for it is the only one I recognize.

I am sorry, but as all MY real fans know, I believe Ghandi, MLK, Bonhoeffer and Jesus were right. I will follow their example. I know what that means or meant for them.

But I will stand with The Lord.

That message was not well-received on Beck's Facebook page, which prompted him to declare that "those of you calling for violence over this Nevada standoff are not supporters or any kind of long-term fan of mine":

Beck discussed the situation again on his radio program today, saying that he would be speaking with Bundy later in the broadcast and reiterating that he was very disturbed by the violent threats being issued by those who had rallied around Bundy, asserting that God does not support what they are doing and therefore "I will have nothing to do with you":

Religious Right Warns RNC Not To Hold 2016 Convention In Las Vegas

The Republican National Committee is currently in the process of selecting the location for the 2016 national convention and among the cities in the running is Las Vegas, Nevada.

That, of course, is not sitting well with Religious Right activists who have now dashed off a letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus warning him that the RNC had better choose a different place to hold the convention:

The leaders sent a letter last week to Republican chairman Reince Priebus, putting him on notice that picking Vegas would generate friction. They call the city a “trap waiting to ensnare. … What could go wrong? The answer is obvious.”

Leaders from the religious right who have joined the effort include Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum; Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition; Paul Caprio, director of Family-PAC; and James Dobson, president of Family Talk ministry.

“The GOP is supposedly interested in reaching out to conservatives and evangelicals. Maybe that’s just a front, but if they really mean it this is not the way to do it,” Dobson said Tuesday. “Even though Vegas has tried to shore itself up and call itself family-friendly, it’s still a metaphor for decadence. There’s still 64 pages of escort services in the yellow pages. … You can’t have it both ways.”

...

Excerpts from social-conservative leaders’ letter to Republican Party Chairman Reince Preibus warning against selecting Las Vegas to host the 2016 GOP convention:

“In spite of ‘family-friendly’ outreach in the past decade, Las Vegas remains a metaphor for all things decadent. And looking at the yellow pages, one can see that it still delivers. With 64 pages of escort services and countless gambling casinos, it remains a trap waiting to ensnare.”

“At a time when the base needs to be motivated, this is no time to mute or offend them in any way. It may seem strange, silly even to some that conservatives would object to something that COULD be so innocuous. Surely there are shows and great restaurants and beautiful hotels. … What could possible go wrong? The answer is obvious, and wisdom dictates the chance not be taken.”

“There are several wonderful venues being considered. We are not advocating for any of them. But we urge you to reject Las Vegas and celebrate the vibrancy and strength of the Republican Party in a place not at odds with its values.”

Republican Admits His Party Does Better When People Don't Vote

How’s all that new outreach going, GOP? Not that well, it seems.

This week, Nevada Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey gave meaning to that old political saying, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.” Speaking on a conservative talk radio show about the Republican Party’s chances in 2014, Hickey said:

"Probably where we had a million voters turn out in 2012; we'll have like 700,000 [in 2014]. A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a non-presidential year. It's a great year for Republicans!"

It’s a great year for Republicans-- when people don’t vote! Particularly those young people and minorities, so never mind them! Really, just a great job rebranding there, GOP, I think you’ve nailed it.

Of course, it’s amusing when a politician accidentally reveals the truth like this, but it points to a serious problem in our democracy. The Republican assault on the right to vote in this country is moving full steam ahead, with bills introduced in 31 states just this year. It’s clear at this point that no amount of accidental truth-telling is going to embarrass them into stopping this attack: they’ve had slip-ups like this in the past, but they still keep pushing to make it harder for people to vote. We can’t wait for them to start feeling ashamed of their position, because that’s clearly never going to happen. It’s up to us to actively defend the right to vote, wherever it is under attack. 

PFAW

David Lane Digs In

In July, we reported on Christian-nation extremist David Lane’s closed-door pastors briefing in Iowa, and the presidential hopefuls and other politicians who have flocked to Lane’s gatherings over the years.

This week the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Lane’s American Renewal Project is holding church-based voter registration drives on three Sundays this month: Sept. 15, Sept. 22 and Sept. 29.  Steve Michael, a spokesperson for the project, told the Register that after the American Renewal Project’s $1.2 million voter registration campaign in Missouri during the last election cycle, the state saw a 3 percent increase in evangelical voters.  He said it will organize in Iowa “steadily until the 2014 election.”

The "Stand-up Sundays" model goes like this: Pastors ask their congregation members to stand up if they're already registered. Volunteers will then hand out voter registration paperwork to the adults still seated. But each Iowa pastor will decide how to do it, Lane told the Register.

Iowa is among 11 states the American Renewal Project is targeting in the 2014 cycle, Michael said. The others are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Organizers will do “Pastors and Pews” events followed by voter registration drives in each state. Next up is Louisiana on Sept. 26-27….

Lane said Iowa may be one of the most registered states in the nation, thanks to the attention from the presidential campaigns, so he expects Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina to be more "target rich areas."

It’s worth noting that Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina are also among the top Senate races for 2014, as are other states on Lane’s target list. 

The NRA vs. Judicial Nominees

Back in December, The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse wrote a great article explaining how the National Rifle Association has worked in concert with Republican senators to oppose many of President Obama’s federal judicial nominees – usually without anything close to a legitimate reason. The NRA’s “symbiotic relationship with the Republican Party,” Greenhouse wrote, led the group to oppose judicial nominees like Sonia Sotomayor, who had next to no record on the Second Amendment, and the party to chip in when the NRA didn’t like a nominee.

It is that symbiotic relationship that succeeded in sinking the nominations of two highly qualified women to federal courts this week. Both were unquestionably qualified and well-respected in legal circles. The NRA and the Senate GOP went after both for completely unfounded reasons.

Caitlin Halligan was President Obama’s nominee to fill one of four vacancies on the hugely influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Never mind that she had broad bipartisan support and sterling credentials. She had once represented a client, the state of New York, in a lawsuit against gun manufacturers. Back when John Roberts was being considered for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans said that judicial nominees shouldn’t be held responsible for positions they took as lawyers on behalf of clients. But no matter. Senate Republicans twice voted to filibuster her nomination – most recently on Wednesday – never even allowing her an up-or-down vote.

Then today, Nevada District Court nominee Elissa Cadish withdrew her nomination over one year after she had been selected by President Obama. Her story was similar. Filling out a questionnaire in 2008, Cadish stated that under then-current law, the constitutional right to bear arms didn’t apply to individual citizens. She was correct. Two months later in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court established for the first time that the Second Amendment does contain that right. Cadish made clear that she understood, and would follow, the new Supreme Court precedent.

But no matter. The NRA targeted Cadish and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller used a little-known Senate practice to keep her from ever even getting the chance to explain her views in front of the Judiciary Committee. Under committee procedures used by Chairman Patrick Leahy as a courtesy to his colleagues, a nominee is not granted a hearing unless both of her home-state senators give permission in the form of a “blue slip.” Heller simply refused to sign the blue slip for Cadish, thus single-handedly sinking her nomination.

The flimsiness of the arguments against Cadish and Halligan, and the fact that much of the opposition took place behind the scenes (in the case of Cadish without even a public hearing), betrays the real reason the NRA and the GOP were working to keep these women off the federal bench. They just don’t want President Obama to be nominating federal judges.

 

PFAW

PFAW: GOP and NRA Leadership Keep Two Qualified Women off the Bench

WASHINGTON – Today, Nevada judge Elissa Cadish withdrew her nomination to sit on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, more than one year after President Obama first nominated her to the position. Despite her sterling qualifications, Cadish was never even granted a hearing before the Judiciary Committee because Nevada Sen. Dean Heller refused to give permission for her nomination to move forward.

Earlier this week, the nomination of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Caitlin Halligan was blocked by Senate Republicans under similar circumstances. Halligan and Cadish both faced unfounded attacks from the gun lobby’s leadership, Halligan for a position she took on behalf of a client and Cadish for correctly describing the state of Second Amendment law before the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision. Both have clearly stated that they understand and would follow Supreme Court precedent on gun rights.

“Senate Republicans and the gun lobby have worked hand in hand to keep these two exceptionally qualified women off the federal bench,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Neither Cadish nor Halligan has displayed character or ethics problems let alone any sort of extreme ideology like that they were accused of. Yet Halligan was never allowed an up-or-down vote from the Senate, and Cadish never even had the opportunity to answer senators’ questions on her record before the Judiciary Committee.”

“The sinking of these two nominees shows just how far the Senate GOP and the gun lobby are willing to go, and how badly they are willing to stretch the facts, in order to keep President Obama’s nominees off the federal bench,” Baker added.

###

PFAWF Releases Reports on Outside Election Spending in 21 States, Organizes ‘Money Out/Voters In’ Events Across the U.S.

Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012

Washington, DC –  Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states.  Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle.  The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs.  And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.

The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC  to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign.  As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker.  “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression.  This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”

The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org

###
 

People For the American Way Expands Latino Vote Campaign, Launches New TV Ad in Four Swing States

Washington, DC -- People For the American Way expanded its campaign targeting Latino voters this week, adding outreach in Nevada and North Carolina and launching the second in a series of Spanish-language television ads exposing Mitt Romney's dangerous agenda for Latinos. The ad, running in key markets in Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, features interviews with real voters reacting to Romney's promise to veto the DREAM Act if it were to be passed by Congress. The two TV ads, along with radio and direct mail outreach are part of a $1.2 million and growing campaign in key swing states.
 
The new ad, "Dream Act," can be viewed here.
 
"Mitt Romney has been very clear about his extreme anti-Latino agenda," said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way. "He slammed Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. He touted the endorsement of Kris Kobach, the architect of disastrous, draconian anti-immigrant measures in Arizona and Alabama. He vowed to make life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they would be forced to 'self-deport.' He even rejected the DREAM Act, which after being partially implemented by President Obama's executive order, is helping thousands of loyal, hard-working young Americans give back to the country they call home."
 
"Romney plans to heap further tax cuts on the wealthiest at the expense of programs that benefit working people,"continued Keegan. "Americans should have a shot at the American dream. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to slam the door on all but the already privileged few."

###

 

African American Ministers in Action Praise Confirmation of Paul Watford, Urge Continued Diversity in Obama’s Judicial Nominations

 The Senate yesterday confirmed prominent Los Angeles attorney Paul J. Watford to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Watford, whose qualifications earned him the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association, becomes just the fourth African American ever to hold a seat on the Ninth Circuit. He is now one of two African American judges on the 29-member circuit court, the busiest in the country, which covers nine western states, as well as two territories.

“Paul Watford as an exceptionally qualified nominee will effectively and judiciously serve the people of California as a Ninth Circuit judge,” said Rev. Dr. Lewis Logan of Los Angeles, a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action. “And now, thanks to Judge Watford’s confirmation, there are two African Americans out of 29 active judges on the Ninth Circuit. Clearly, there’s much more work to be done to ensure that our court system reflects the diversity of people that it serves. This particular confirmation represents a substantive and significant step forward.”

President Obama has brought more diversity to the federal courts than any other president in history. Of the president’s exceptionally qualified judicial nominees, nearly 40 percent have been people of color and nearly half have been women. In contrast, just 18 percent of President Bush’s judicial nominees were people of color and just 23 percent were women. Unfortunately, President Obama’s efforts to diversify the bench have met with strident opposition from Republicans in the Senate, who have used procedural tactics to block qualified nominees.

“Diversity in our courts matters,” said Rev. Leonard Jackson of Las Vegas, also a member of African American Ministers in Action. “A diverse federal court system inspires confidence in those who turn to it for justice and ensures that many voices are heard in the halls of power. Paul Watford is a stellar nominee, and will bring an important voice to the busiest circuit court in the country.”

###

 

Memo: Behind the Scenes, Silent Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
Date: May 4, 2012

Subject: Behind the Scenes, Silent Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

Senate Republicans’ systematic obstruction of President Obama’s nominees to the federal courts is by now well known. The President’s confirmed nominees have on average waited four times as long between committee approval and a vote from the full Senate than did George W. Bush’s nominees at this point in his term. The vast majority of these, once the GOP’s obstruction options are exhausted, are confirmed overwhelmingly.

What is less well known – and largely hidden in behind-the-scenes Senate procedure – is that this systematic obstruction often begins long before a nominee has been sent from the Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor. In fact, Senate Republicans are routinely using procedural tactics to delay the consideration and approval of the President’s judicial nominees by the Judiciary Committee.

This silent obstruction adds another layer of gridlock to an already gridlocked process – and it does so away from the spotlight of the media and the scrutiny of constituents.

Pre-Committee: Withholding Blue Slips

Under procedures adopted by Chairman Leahy as a bipartisan courtesy to his fellow senators, the Judiciary Committee does not consider a judicial nominee until both of that nominee’s home-state senators have submitted a “blue slip” allowing the nominee to move forward. The submission of a blue slip does not imply support of the nominee – merely that the nomination should be considered by the Judiciary Committee.

Despite the serious implications of withholding a blue slip, senators can do so without giving a reason and even without a public announcement – making it impossible to know how often the practice occurs. But several recent incidents that have been publicized show just how willing some GOP senators are to prevent unquestionably qualified and mainstream nominees from even reaching a Senate hearing.

In Arizona, a two-year-old emergency vacancy remains unfilled despite the existence of a well-qualified nominee who has been waiting since June 2011 for a Senate hearing. Rosemary Márquez, President Obama’s nominee to the District Court based out of Tucson, was rated unanimously qualified by the American Bar Association and has the support of a large cross-section of Arizona’s legal community. But Sens. McCain and Kyl have held up Márquez’s nomination for ten months by refusing to submit blue slips to the Judiciary Committee.

Márquez is not alone. In February, the President nominated Elissa Cadish, a state district court judge in Nevada, to fill an empty seat on the U.S. District Court. Cadish is widely recognized as being qualified for the federal bench, including by a unanimous panel of the American Bar Association. But Sen. Dean Heller is withholding his blue slip anyway and thus blocking the Judiciary Committee from even considering her nomination.

Heller’s objection to Cadish is this: one month before the Supreme Court overturned decades of case law to hold that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, Cadish stated – accurately – that then-current case law did not recognize such a right. For a nominee for a lower federal court, who is expected to rely on Supreme Court precedent rather than create her own, it was a statement of fact, one that four members of the United States Supreme Court agreed with just a few weeks later. For Heller, it disqualifies her from even being considered for a federal judgeship.

Similarly, Eleventh Circuit nominee Jill Pryor is being kept from a Senate hearing by home-state Republican senators who have already acknowledged that she is qualified for a federal judgeship but want her in a different seat – one on the U.S. District Court. Georgia senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have said that they’re fine with Pryor being a federal judge. Pryor’s skills and experience aren’t in doubt: she’s received a host of awards for her work in the courtroom and has been a leader in Georgia’s legal community. The senators’ beef is simply that they have someone else in mind for the Circuit Court seat the president nominated her to, and they seem willing to keep an emergency vacancy unfilled until they get their way.

All of these nominations are being held hostage by Republican senators who are silently filibustering them by refusing to consent to the Judiciary Committee’s even holding hearings on their merits.

In Committee: No-Shows and Routine Delays

Twice this year, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have prevented nominees from moving forward by simply not showing up at committee hearings and preventing a quorum. These “boycotts” kept the committee from holding votes on nominees who had already had hearings before the committee, further delaying already delayed nominations.

The walk-outs provided a more public accent to what was already routine obstruction by Judiciary Republicans. Committee rules allow the minority party to delay votes on nominees by requesting a one-week holdover, a provision designed to permit members who have questions about a particular nominee to get those questions answered. Under President Bush, such holdover requests were occasionally made to consider particular questions about particular nominees. Under President Obama, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have used this tactic routinely, holding over all but five of more than 150 nominees.

Conclusion

Senate Republicans have been using nearly every procedural tactic at their disposal to stall President Obama’s judicial nominees at every step in the nominations process. Very few of these maneuvers come with explanations, and those that do are often blown far out of proportion.

The result has been a record vacancy crisis in the federal courts, inexcusable delays for Americans seeking justice, and eroded trust in gridlocked Congress.

Media contact: Miranda Blue, (202) 467-4999, media@pfaw.org

###
 

Attend a Rally to Save the American Dream this Saturday!

Events have been organized in cities and state capitols across the nation to show solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. Find the event or events nearest you.

Health Care Reform Repeal: Bought and Paid for by Citizens United

Alarming new research by PFAW shows that empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate-backed groups intent on the repeal of the health care reform law spent an enormous amount of money to help defeat vulnerable supporters of reform and elect candidates who vowed to repeal it.
Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious