112th Congress

PFAW Urges Congress to Give Students Another Chance at the DREAM

Today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) held a hearing on the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow access to affordable postsecondary education, opportunities for military service and potentially a path to full citizenship to thousands of qualified young students striving for a better future.

Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Re: Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake
Date: June 15, 2011 

This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nominations of three of President Obama’s judicial nominees:  Steve Six (for the Tenth Circuit), Marina Garcia Marmolejo (for the Southern District of Texas), and Michael C. Green (for the Western District of New York).

Actually, the committee was originally scheduled to vote on these three nominations a week earlier, on June 9.  However, because Republican obstructionism has become the rule, not one person ever believed for even a second that the committee would actually vote as scheduled.  And no one gasped in surprise that day when Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, announced that his party was exercising its prerogative to hold the vote over by a week.

That’s because since President Obama took office, virtually every one of his judicial nominees has had his or her committee vote delayed by Republicans by at least a week. This is true for Supreme Court Justices, circuit court judges, and even district court judges.  The routine use of this hold, without cause and almost without exception, is unprecedented.

Looked at in isolation, it might not appear all that harmful.  However, it is part of a larger set of procedural roadblocks the Senate GOP uses to obstruct confirmation of qualified nominees whose only “fault” is that they were nominated by a Democratic president.  The cynical abuse of this tactic makes clear that the actions of Senate Republicans toward President Obama’s judicial nominees is based on partisan politics, not principle.

Voting on a federal judicial nomination is an extremely serious responsibility and one that requires diligent research and thought.  So if senators sincerely have questions that have not been answered, or genuine and substantial concerns about a nominee’s fitness for the bench, then no one should begrudge them an extra few days to gather additional information.

But when Republicans exercise this option for every nominee, even those who are strongly supported by their home state Republican senators and have no opposition whatsoever, then their sincerity must be called into question.

The Senate has confirmed more than 70 of President Obama’s nominees without opposition.  In every case but four, committee Republicans exercised their prerogative to delay committee consideration of these consensus nominees by at least one week.  That begs the question:  Why?  What did they need to learn during the delay?  That is a question that should be posed to every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee about every one of these consensus nominees.

Take the nomination of Sue E. Myerscough for a judicial emergency district court seat in Illinois as a typical example.  She was first nominated in July of 2010, was deemed unanimously well qualified by the ABA, had a committee hearing in September, submitted responses to senators’ written questions, had her committee vote scheduled and delayed two weeks, was approved by the committee without opposition on December 1 ... and was one of the 43 qualified nominees needlessly denied a floor vote when the lame duck session of Congress ended.

By the time President Obama renominated her in early January, she was so well known to the committee that they did not require her to testify anew  or to submit new responses to written questions.  She was scheduled for a committee vote February 3, but committee Republicans exercised their option to delay that vote to the 17th, at which point she was again approved without opposition, leading to her unopposed confirmation by the Senate in March.

Senator Grassley and his fellow Republicans on the committee should explain why they demanded that the committee vote be held over a week.  There was no information they lacked, since they did not have her re-testify or submit new written responses to questions.  They had no serious concerns about her nomination, since they had already supported her in 2010 and ended up supporting her again once the vote was allowed.  Can they cite anything they learned during the week’s delay?

Sue Myerscough’s nomination is hardly unique.  No matter who the nominee is, no matter how qualified, no matter if confirmation is needed to address a judicial emergency, all the nominees have something in common: They were nominated by a Democratic president, and that is all the reason Republicans need to obstruct the process and sabotage the judicial branch of the United States government.

In so doing, they are living up to the vow made by right wing leaders in the opening days of the Obama presidency:  to function as a “resistance movement” rather than as responsible participants in an electoral democracy.

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African American Ministers In Action Supports A Voice for the District of Columbia

Speaking out against several policy riders that have been passed or threatened by conservatives in Congress, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and members of the civil rights community voiced their support for autonomy and the right to self-government for the people of the District of Columbia.

Condemning Extreme Social Policy Riders, PFAW Calls For DC Voting Rights

Speaking out against several policy riders that have been passed or threatened by conservatives in Congress, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and members of the civil rights community voiced their support for autonomy and the right to self-government for the people of the District of Columbia.

Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker
Re: Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?
Date: May 31, 2011

Last week, all Senate Republicans except Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski united to block Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, from getting an up or down confirmation vote.

Goodwin Liu Withdraws Nomination; PFAW Blasts Senate GOP's Smear Campaign

Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu requested that President Obama withdraw his nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Liu, who was first nominated to the position two years ago, was refused an up-or-down vote by Senate Republicans.

Issa Attacks Transparency for Contractors, Ignores Waste and Abuse

Tomorrow, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Small Business will hold a joint hearing investigating the White House’s reported consideration of an executive order that would take a step toward addressing the corrupting influence of unlimited and undisclosed corporate spending on elections. The executive order under consideration would require government contractors to disclose their political contributions, as well as those of their senior management and affiliated political action committees.

Young People for the American DREAM

Today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow access to affordable postsecondary education, opportunities for military service and potentially a path to full citizenship to thousands of qualified young students striving for a better future.

African American Ministers Support the DREAM Act

Today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow access to affordable postsecondary education, opportunities for military service and potentially a path to full citizenship to thousands of qualified young students striving for a better future.

Students Should Get Another Chance at the DREAM

Today, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow access to affordable postsecondary education, opportunities for military service and potentially a path to full citizenship to thousands of qualified young students striving for a better future.

Senate Confirms Ed Chen: Republicans Forego Obstruction

The Senate today confirmed Ed Chen as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Despite attacks by some GOP leaders, Chen was confirmed by a vote of 56 to 42 and did not face a filibuster.

Marge Baker of People For the American Way issued the following statement:

“Ed Chen is exceedingly well qualified for this seat. Despite the repeated delays he was forced to endure, Americans should be glad that the Senate finally confirmed his nomination.

Issa’s Sham Hearings: Brought to You by the Koch Brothers

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA), will hold a hearing on state and municipal debt.  Parading a roster of ultra-conservative ideologues including Gov.

2011 Budget Deal Includes Costly, Ineffective and Constitutionally Troubling Voucher Program in DC

In the budget deal reached last week, the GOP used the threat of a devastating government shutdown to push a right-wing priority that has nothing to do with saving money or even with the 2011 budget: re-imposition of a five-year private school voucher program for the District of Columbia, beginning next year.

Republicans Set to Deny Preventative Healthcare to Women

This week, the House and Senate plan to vote on the Pence Amendment, which would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, putting the health and safety of millions of Americans at stake.

PFAW Condemns House Republicans’ Ban on Local Support for Women’s Health

In the budget deal reached last week, the GOP didn’t only win huge tax cuts for their corporate supporters and the super-rich; they also used the impending government shutdown as leverage to ban local support for women’s health in Washington, DC.

Organizations Call on Senate Leaders to Keep Confirmations Moving

In a letter sent today, a wide array of organizations called on Senate leaders to ensure that President Obama’s judicial nominees receive timely votes during the 112th Congress.

House GOP Playing Politics With Women’s Health

In a shameless attempt to stir up a Right Wing “culture war,” House Republicans are drafting a continuing resolution that would include the removal of all Title X family planning funds from the federal budget.

Senate Confirms Three Judicial Nominees

The Senate today confirmed three of President Obama’s judicial nominees as the result of an agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Health Care Reform Legislation

District Judge Roger Vinson today issued a ruling that would strike down key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
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