Today, in a 63-33 vote, the Senate broke a filibuster of the nomination of John McConnell to serve as a district court judge in Rhode Island. The attempted obstruction of a district court nominee was a top priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent enormous lobbying resources on sinking McConnell’s nomination. The Chamber objected to McConnell’s work as a public interest lawyer in Rhode Island, where he took on lead paint manufacturers and tobacco companies on behalf of consumers.
Eleven Republican senators -- Lamar Alexander, Scott Brown, Saxby Chambliss, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Johnny Isakson, Mark Kirk, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and John Thune -- joined Senate Democrats in voting to end the filibuster. A sizable number of GOP senators have made statements sharply critical of filibusters aimed at judicial nominees, and many explicitly called the practice unconstitutional just a few years ago.
“I commend the Senate for standing up for democracy and for fair courts,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “The closeness of the vote to sink John McConnell’s nomination shows just how deeply indebted many Republicans in Congress are to the U.S. Chamber and corporate interests. Senators who just a few years ago were decrying the filibuster and vowing never to use it against a judicial nominee are now falling over themselves to stop this nomination from reaching and up-or-down vote.
“The senators who broke with their party to support an up-or-down vote for McConnell deserve our respect for standing by their words. The Chamber of Commerce is using its enormous clout to push a pro-corporate bias at every level of the federal judiciary. I hope that when it comes to the final vote on the McConnell nomination, these senators choose the interests of the people of Rhode Island over the pleas of corporate lobbyists.”