Oklahoma

Senate Republicans Block Appeals Court Nominee They Support, Setting Obstruction Record

Washington, DC – The Senate GOP set an obstruction record today, for the first time in history successfully filibustering a federal appeals court nominee who had come out of the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. In a 56 to 34 vote, a partisan minority prevented the Senate majority from ending the filibuster of the nomination of Oklahoma’s Robert Bacharach to become a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. No senator has actually spoken against Bacharach’s nomination, and he has received the strong support of both his home-state senators, Republicans Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. In an interview in June, Coburn called plans to block Bacharach’s nomination “stupid.” But even Coburn and Inhofe’s support evaporated when McConnell gave the command to filibuster: both Oklahoma senators voted "present," which in the case of a filibuster is the same as a "no" vote.

“If you need any further proof of the Senate GOP’s blind dedication to obstruction, this is it,” said Paul Gordon of People For the American Way. “Robert Bacharach should have been a shoe-in for a federal judgeship. His superior qualifications aren’t in dispute. His home-state senators, both conservative Republicans, fully support his nomination. Republicans aren’t even bothering to pretend he is controversial. For the first time in American history, we see a successful filibuster of a circuit court nominee who was approved by committee with bipartisan support – all because Sen. McConnell and his party are more interested in playing politics than in doing their jobs. So Americans in six states remain stuck with a circuit court without enough judges to deliver justice efficiently.

“With nearly 80 current vacancies in the federal courts, the Senate GOP should be doing everything in its power to help clear the nominations backlog, rather than making flimsy excuses for further obstruction. This absurd gamesmanship is not what Americans are paying our Senate to do.”

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Last week, People For the American Way circulated this fact sheet on Bacharach’s nomination:

There has never been a successful filibuster of a circuit court nominee who was approved in committee with bipartisan support. A failed cloture vote on Tenth Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach would represent a massive escalation in obstruction.

Robert Bacharach should be a shoe-in

  • The ABA panel that evaluates judicial nominees unanimously found Bacharach well qualified, its highest possible evaluation. He has been a magistrate judge in the Western District of Oklahoma for over a decade.
  • He was approved by the Judiciary Committee with near-unanimous bipartisan support (the one “no” vote was from Sen. Mike Lee, who is voting against all President Obama’s judicial nominees to protest an unrelated issue).
  • He has the support of President Obama and both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators.
  • As Sen. Inhofe said, “it is kind of rare that the Obama White House and I agree on anything.”
  • Sen. Coburn said in June that it would be “stupid” for his party to block a vote on Bacharach.

The “Thurmond Rule” is no excuse for blocking Bacharach

  •  In the past 5 presidential election years, Senate Democrats have never denied an up-or-down vote to any circuit court nominee of a Republican president who received bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee.
  • In the past 5 presidential election years, only 4 circuit nominees reported with bipartisan support have been denied an up-or-down vote on the Senate Floor, and all 4 were nominated by President Clinton.

This is part of the GOP’s ongoing campaign of obstruction against consensus nominees

  •  Of the 5 circuit court nominees that have been confirmed this year, the Majority Leader had to file cloture on 3 of those nominees in order to secure an up-or-down vote.
  • All 3 circuit court nominees for whom the Majority Leader had to file cloture were nominated to fill judicial emergency vacancies and were rated unanimously “well qualified” by the nonpartisan ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, the highest possible rating. Two of the circuit court nominees who required cloture – Adalberto Jordan of Florida and Andrew Hurwitz of Arizona both had the support of their Republican home state senators (and the third was from California, which has two Democratic senators).

Vacancies are taking a toll on the Tenth Circuit (Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado)

  • Of the 12 active judgeships on this circuit, 2 are vacant.
  • This seat has been vacant for more than two years, when the previous judge retired (as opposed to taking senior status).
  • The slack is being picked up by several senior judges, including an 89 year-old LBJ nominee and a 96 year-old Nixon nominee.

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On Obstructing Judges, Senate Republicans Get Even Worse

Republicans are seeking the first ever successful filibuster of a circuit court nominee who was approved in committee with bipartisan support.
PFAW

Filibuster of 10th Circuit Nominee Would Be Unprecedented

On Monday, the Senate will hold a cloture vote to end the filibuster of Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. This filibuster is just the latest example of the destructive obstruction of judicial nominees that Republicans have engaged in from the very start of the Obama presidency.

In fact, if this filibuster succeeds, it will be the first time there has ever been a successful filibuster of a circuit court nominee who was approved in committee with bipartisan support.

Bacharach, who hails from Oklahoma, is extraordinarily well qualified to be a circuit court judge. The ABA panel that evaluates judicial nominees unanimously gave him their highest possible rating, "well qualified." He has been a magistrate judge in the Western District of Oklahoma for over a decade, giving him substantial experience with the criminal and civil legal issues he would face as a circuit court judge.

Much of Oklahoma's legal establishment has publicly supported his nomination: the Chief Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma; the Oklahoma Bar Association; the Dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Law; the General Counsel at Oklahoma City University; the Dean Emeritus at Oklahoma City University School of Law; the President of the Oklahoma County Bar Association; fellow members of the Federal Bar Association; and attorneys who worked closely with him while he was in private practice.

Bacharach also has strong bipartisan support. He has the support of President Obama and both of Oklahoma's Republican senators. In addition, he was approved by the Judiciary Committee nearly unanimously, with only Sen. Lee voting no (for reasons unrelated to the nominee). Sen. Coburn has said it would be "stupid" for his party to block a floor vote on Bacharach.

Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his party would refuse to consent to any further confirmation votes for circuit court nominees, purportedly because it is an election year. He cited the so-called "Thurmond Rule," which he mischaracterized as a practice of not allowing any judicial confirmation votes as we approach a presidential election. In reality, it is not a "rule" at all. Instead, it is the name for the general principle that the party not in the White House will sometimes slow confirmation of controversial judicial nominees at some point in the months leading up to a presidential election. It has nothing to do with consensus nominees like Bacharach.

In fact, as noted above, a successful filibuster of Bacharach would be the first time there has ever been a successful filibuster of a circuit court nominee who was approved in committee with bipartisan support. That is hardly consistent with Senate history or practice.

But it would be consistent with Republican efforts to obstruct President Obama's judicial nominees regardless of their qualifications, regardless of their strong bipartisan support, and regardless of the damage the obstruction inflicts on the American people. After years of calling filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees unconstitutional, Senate Republicans turned around and filibustered President Obama's very first judicial nominee (David Hamilton, to the Seventh Circuit). This year, most of the circuit court nominees who have been confirmed have required a cloture vote to break Republican filibusters.

Republican efforts to filibuster Robert Bacharach are completely unjustified, but are also no surprise.

 

PFAW

Gridlock or Bust: How the Senate GOP Has Abandoned Its Own Nominees for the Sake of Obstruction

To: Editorial boards and journalists

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Subject: Gridlock or Bust: How the Senate GOP Has Abandoned Its Own Nominees for the Sake of Obstruction

Date: July 19, 2012

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got into a shouting match on the Senate floor, each of them accusing the other of purposefully stalling Senate business.

One of them was right. The other was making flimsy excuses.

Senate Republicans under McConnell’s leadership have routinely stalled the government’s business even on matters on which they agree with Democrats. Nowhere is this clearer than in the obstruction of  nominees to the federal courts, particularly those with strong bipartisan support. And nowhere is that clearer than the senseless filibuster of the nomination of Oklahoma’s Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bacharach has the strong support of both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators. He was approved by a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yet McConnell, citing a nebulous so-called rule named after South Carolina segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond, refuses to hold a vote on Bacharach’s confirmation. (Under Senate rules, the majority cannot schedule a vote without the consent of the minority party. Denying that consent for President Obama’s judicial nominees has been standard operating procedure for McConnell. This quiet filibuster is usually hidden from the public unless the majority calls for a cloture vote to end it.)

Oklahoma’s Robert Bacharach and the 20 other highly qualified judicial nominees awaiting confirmation deserve swift up-or-down votes from the full Senate.

McConnell is misleading Americans on the extent of his own obstruction.

In their exchange yesterday, Sen. McConnell accused Sen. Reid of “basically trying to convince the American people that it’s somebody else's fault, that the Senate is not doing the basic work of government.”

The Senate is not doing the basic work of government. But the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of McConnell and his party.

Look at the progress on the confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees: the average federal court nominee under President Obama has waited 103 days after committee approval just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate. The average wait for George W. Bush's nominees at this point in his first term was just 34 days. The result is that only 153 Obama nominees have been confirmed so far, compared with 197 Bush nominees at the same point in his term. While Bush cut the judicial vacancy rate by over one third during his first term in office, Obama is set to end his first term with more vacancies than he started with, capping off a historically long period of high vacancy rates.

McConnell, unsurprisingly, has been trying desperately to hide these numbers. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, he and Sen. Charles Grassley claimed that the Senate today “already has confirmed 152 of his lower-court nominees, compared to only 119 of Bush's under similar circumstances.”

What they call “similar circumstances” is what the rest of us would call “apples and oranges.” The senators are comparing the confirmation rate in Obama’s first term to that in Bush’s second term – when, because of a cooperative Senate he had many fewer judicial vacancies to fill.

McConnell is prioritizing obstruction over the wishes of his fellow GOP senators.

Tenth Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma has the strong support of both of his home-state GOP senators. In fact, Sen. Coburn has publicly spoken out against the needless obstruction of Bacharach’s nomination, calling McConnell’s delays “stupid.” Bacharach’s position is similar to that of First Circuit nominee William Kayatta of Maine, who is being filibustered by the Senate GOP despite support from home-state Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Both nominees received bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both have earned the American Bar Association’s highest rating.

Yet Kayatta has been waiting for a Senate vote since April and Bacharach since June. And if McConnell continues to have his way, neither nominee will even reach a Senate vote this year. Why? The Minority Leader arbitrarily announced last month that he would block all Circuit Court nominees until after the presidential election.

Sen. McConnell is trying to fool the American people with his creative statistics and denials. Under his leadership, the Senate GOP has become a force of gridlock, stopping even routine government business at every opportunity. If Sen. McConnell wants to prove that current Senate dysfunction is not the fault of his party, he can start by allowing a vote on Robert Bacharach.

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

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Editorial Memo: In Fight over Maine Judicial Nominee, a Perfect Storm of Senate Dysfunction

To: Editorial boards and journalists
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Subject: In Fight over Maine Judicial Nominee, a Perfect Storm of Senate Dysfunction
Date: July 12, 2012

How far will Senate Republicans go to obstruct government business in the final months before the presidential election? The fight over a noncontroversial Maine judicial nominee, which is coming to a head this week, shows just how far.

The struggle to confirm Maine’s William Kayatta to the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a perfect illustration of the Senate GOP’s commitment to obstruct all progress that might in any way help President Obama – even if it means throwing members of their own caucus under the bus. Maine’s Republican senators both strongly support Kayatta’s nomination. He was approved overwhelmingly by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (The only no votes were from Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who is voting against all nominees in protest of President Obama’s recess appointments and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who objected to Kayatta’s role on an ABA panel that had the nerve to find Elena Kagan “qualified” for the Supreme Court).Yet his nomination has been waiting on the Senate calendar since April 19. And if Kayatta is not confirmed before the Senate leaves for its summer recess, the seat he’s been nominated to fill could be left open for more than a year.

What should be a fairly straight-forward job for the Senate has turned into an election year struggle of wills – at the cost of Americans who rely on fully functioning courts and a Congress that does its job.

Here’s how it happened.

Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the extraordinary step of announcing that Republicans would block all votes on all circuit court nominees between now and Election Day. This wasn’t welcome news to some Senate Republicans who have circuit court nominees who they are eager to put on the bench in their states. William Kayatta from Maine has the backing of Senators Snowe and Collins, and Robert Bacharach from Oklahoma has the support of Senators Coburn and Inhofe. Snowe and Collins have said they would support cloture to end the filibuster of Kayatta. Collins said in a statement that “It simply isn’t fair that Bill [Kayatta], who would be a superb judge, now appears to be caught up in election year politics. “ Coburn was more blunt, publicly stating, “I think it’s stupid.”

At the same time, Senate Republicans announced that they would continue to allow votes on district court nominees -- as if that were some great concession on their part instead of a basic part of their job. But it turns out that even that one bare promise was an empty one: For the past two months, the confirmation of judicial nominees has slowed to virtually a standstill, with an average of less than one vote per week.

This week, for example, Senate Republicans have allowed just one judicial confirmation vote: on a district court nominee in Tennessee. In fact, over the past eight weeks there have been only seven confirmations, of five district and two circuit court nominees. Both circuit court confirmations required a cloture vote to overcome Republican filibusters, after which the decidedly noncontroversial nominees were easily confirmed – one even by voice vote.

By contrast, during the same period preceding George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, the Senate confirmed nearly four times as many judges: 25 (20 district and five circuit). Under the “regular order” established during the Bush administration, the Senate should be holding at least three to four confirmation votes each week. Failing to move at that pace will mean that the Senate simply won’t be able to keep pace with the nominees being reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kayatta is now one of 18 highly qualified pending nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and who have been waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. These are not controversial picks: 15 were approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, and ten have been waiting for a floor vote since April or earlier.

The filibuster of Kayatta, who has been waiting since April 19 for a Senate vote despite enthusiastic support from his Republican home-state senators, is a perfect illustration of this mindless obstruction.

Kayatta is extraordinarily well qualified to be a circuit court judge

  • An ABA panel unanimously found him well qualified, its highest possible evaluation.
  • He has more than 30 years’ experience as a law firm attorney (and partner since 1986) specializing in complex civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels.
  • He is a recognized legal leader in Maine: He has served as chairman of the Maine Professional Ethics Commission, chairman of the Maine Board of Bar Examiners, and president of the Maine Bar Association.
  • He has argued two cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed him a Special Master in a water rights case of original jurisdiction. This is a powerful indication of the Court's confidence in his legal abilities.
  • Throughout his career, he has maintained a substantial pro bono practice. In 2010, he received an award from the Maine Bar Foundation for pro bono service on behalf of low-income Mainers. He has also received awards from the Disability Rights Center of Maine, the Maine Equal Justice Partners, and the Maine Children’s Alliance for his pro bono representation of disabled Maine children.


Delaying a vote until after the election will harm people throughout New England

  • With only five active judgeships, the First Circuit has the fewest judges of any circuit. As a result, any vacancy there is felt most acutely.
  • The senior judge who Kayatta would replace has agreed to carry a full caseload only until September. If the confirmation vote is delayed until after the election, that judge’s cases will have to be divided up among the current judges this September, only to be reallocated yet again a few months later once Kayatta is confirmed.


Kayatta has earned strong bipartisan support

  • He has the support of President Obama and both of Maine’s Republican senators.
  • The Judiciary Committee approved his nomination with only two no votes.
  • This is exactly the kind of destructive partisan recklessness that has driven Sen. Snowe to retire and which will make it harder for a Republican to be elected as her replacement.


On both the circuit and the district court level, Republicans are needlessly blocking votes on eminently qualified, consensus nominees whose only “flaw” seems to be that they were nominated by President Obama. It’s time Senators rolled up their sleeves and did the business of the country they were sent to office to do.

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ALEC-Supported Disability Scholarship Program Challenged in Oklahoma, Threatens Public Schools and Church-State Separation

Oklahoma school districts sue over scholarship program designed by ALEC to benefit corporations and religious interests.
PFAW Foundation

Randall Terry Won't Receive Any Delegates for his Oklahoma 'Victory'

Earlier this week, Randall Terry demanded that we acknowledge his "victory" over Barack Obama, our "baby-killing president," in Oklahoma's Democratic primary.

So we guess that we are also obligated to take note of the fact that, despite his "victory," Terry will not actually receive any delegates because his "campaign" failed to file the proper paperwork:

Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry said Friday he's been told he will not be allocated any delegates from the Oklahoma Democratic primary because his campaign did not file the proper paperwork and because the national party does not recognize him as a legitimate candidate.

"This action is 'political insider trading,' " Terry said in a release. "It's stealing in broad daylight. It shows the power and the corruption of the (Democratic) Party."

State party rules say candidates must file a delegate slate ahead of the primary, which party leaders said Terry did not do.

Randall Terry Demands that we Acknowledge his Oklahoma 'Victory'

Last week, Randall Terry won 18% of the vote in Oklahoma's Democratic primary as part of his on-going "presidential campaign" aimed primarily exploiting a loophole in election law as a means of air graphic anti-abortion ads on television.

And Terry appears to be quite pleased with himself, somehow believing that his showing in Oklahoma demonstrates that President Obama is losing in the "swing states" and he wants everyone to know it ... especially us, Slate, and Jezebel:

Randall Terry Revels in Oklahoma Delegate Victory

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in order to run graphic ads against abortion rights, which he says have aired in fifteen states. Because he won over 15% of the vote in the Oklahoma primary, where he had the help of Ann Coulter, Terry will likely have at least one delegate representing his candidacy at the Democratic National Convention.

He said in a statement yesterday that he hopes his campaign and Obama's support for abortion rights will cost Obama “the White House in 2012”:

"My message was simple: Obama promotes the murder of babies by abortion, and is attacking the Church and religious liberty. Knowing this, a Christian cannot vote for him in good conscience.

"Obama's promotion of the murder of unborn babies could cost him the White House in 2012. I will run in at least 6 swing states, and be a voice for the babies who are dying under Obama's policies. If these numbers hold true in those states, the plight of the babies will cause Obama to lose the White House in 2012. How's that for the most critical 'social issue' of our times being the driving force of an election? Obama's promotion of murder is his Achilles heal [sic]."

Coulter: 'I Love Randall Terry'

Last week we noted that Ann Coulter would be headlining a fundraiser for anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry when he brings his loophole-exploiting presidential campaign to Oklahoma.

Today, Coulter was interviewed by KRMG's Dan Potter about her upcoming appearance and asked whether she supported some of Terry's more outrageous stunts and statements, like his statements regarding the murder to Dr. George Tiller.

Clearly uncomfortable, Coulter hedged a bit before declaring that "violence will break out" when the Constitution is trampled upon and stated that the "current score" between murdered babies and murdered doctors was approximately fifty million to seven: 

Potter: Let's talk about your appearance in Broken Arrow on March 3, your speaking at a fundraiser for the founder of Operation Rescue, Randall Terry who is running for president on the Democratic ticket in Oklahoma. Why'd you take the gig?

Coulter: Well, for one thing, this is what I do for a living; I give speeches. But I love Randall Terry and I must say, if he beats President Obama in the Democratic primary, I'm going to be torn ... do I support Randall Terry or Mitt Romney, whom I've been pushing for the Republican Party? So it could end up being a very difficult choice for me.

Potter: You say you love Randall Terry, He's famous nationally for his efforts to shut down abortion clinics. He's used many graphic images in his protests. He even had words of support for the guy who gunned down that obstetrician in the Wichita church service back in 2009. You're cool with all that?

Coulter: Ummmmm .... well, I'm going to discuss the issue of the abortion clinic doctors being shot in my speech. But, by in large, the current score is, what, about fifty million to seven in terms of the number of people their side has killed and the number of people our side has killed. But I'll give you a brief preview, which is when you take democracy away from people, violence will break out. That is not, itself, an endorsement, but it is a suggesting that we go back to living under the Constitution.

Ann Coulter to Fundraise for Randall Terry

As we've noted before, anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry is currently running a Potemkin presidential campaign for the sole purpose of exploiting a loophole that allows him to air graphic anti-abortion ads on television under the guise that they are campaign ads.

Terry's quixotic campaign has been relegated to the fringes as he's constantly struggled to even raise the money needed to run many ads.  But perhaps his effort will be getting a boost, as he is reporting that none other than Mitt Romney supporter Ann Coulter will be headlining a fundraising rally for him:

Best Selling author and political pundit Ann Coulter will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising rally for Randall Terry for President in the Tulsa Oklahoma area on March 3rd.

Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012.

Time: 6:00 P.M. private fundraising reception; 7:00 P.M. Rally.

Location: Arrow Heights Baptist Church, 3201 South Elm Place, Broken Arrow (just outside Tulsa), Oklahoma.

...

"We are thrilled to have Miss Coulter's formidable talents and skills give us a boost in our efforts in Oklahoma. I'm certain the evening will be inspirational and motivational.

"If I -- the 'extremist candidate' -- receive 5% or 6% of the vote in the Oklahoma primary, it sends a serious rebuke to the Obama campaign. Moreover, it shows that a sizable percentage of voters are willing to defect from a sitting President in their own party, because of his attacks on human life and religious liberty. That would spell big trouble for the Obama camp in the swing states in the general election."

We wonder if Coulter realizes that Terry also had hopes for running similar ads targeting Romney.  Maybe if Coulter helps to raise enough money for him, Terry will finally be able to do so! 

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.

Back to School with the Religious Right

The Religious Right continues to target public schools in a variety of ways that disrupt education and threaten religious liberty, according to a report released by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). The report provides an in-depth analysis of the struggle over the future of our public education system by focusing on six categories: creationism; textbook controversies; sexuality education; religion and public schools; anti-gay activity and censorship.

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