US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, staunch defender of tradition at the World’s Most Moss-Ridden Deliberative Body, has taken a bold step that puts him at odds with our own Senator Patrick Leahy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday said he opposes to the nomination of President Obama’s pick for the federal bench, Georgia state Judge Michael Boggs, pointing to his history of controversial positions on issues ranging from abortion to the confederate flag.
,,, “I’ve not talked to [Judiciary Chairman] Pat Leahy personally. I will do that,” Reid said in an interview with BuzzFeed. “Unless I have a better explanation. I can’t vote for him.”
For those just joining us, Boggs’ nomination was part of a deal with Georgia’s two Republican Senators: you give us Boggs, we’ll refrain from blocking some of Obama’s nominees. Firebrand political blogger Charlie Pierce characterized the deal as “a slightly rancid little bit of Beltway logrolling,” which seems reasonably accurate.
The deal was necessary because Leahy, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, has mandated adherence to the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, which gives each Senator the power to block judicial nominees from his/her home state. Which means any nominee from any state with a Republican Senator faces an uphill battle for confirmation.
By all accounts, Boggs’ record as a state judge is relatively unobjectionable. But before that, when he was a state lawmaker, he had a decidedly conservative record: he voted to retain the Confederate banner as part of the state flag, he favored restrictions on abortion rights, and opposed same-sex marriage. At a Judiciary hearing this week, Boggs disavowed some of his past positions, including support for a measure that would have publicly identified all doctors who performed abortions.
But still, thers a sizable gap between the two Boggses, and how are we to know which will emerge once he’s securely installed into a lifetime judicial seat? His nomination has drawn the active opposition of numerous liberal and progressive groups. In some cases, they’ve trained their fire directly on Leahy, who could change the “blue slip” process with the stroke of a pen.
Leahy did not attend the Boggs hearing, and he appears to be offering a backdoor exit for his colleagues:
[Leahy] said in a statement that the burden remains with each senator on his or her due diligence and that senators must decide for themselves if the nominees are worthy.
The idea, apparently, is that the Boggs deal guaranteed his nomination but not his confirmation. It remains to be seen how Georgia’s devoutly conservative Senators would react if Senate Democrats sink the nomination. It might be the end of the “blue slip” whether St. Patrick likes it or not.
Postscript. I continue to be astounded by the lack of coverage this story has received in the Vermont media. Our Congressional delegation in general, and Leahy in particular, get very generous coverage for their many good works. But when the halo slips from St. Patrick’s blessed forehead, not a peep is heard, not a word read. Except when they publish Leahy’s own response to the kerfuffle, of course.
As I’ve said before, 99% of the time I’m proud to be represented by Pat Leahy. But this time, his actions deserve scrutiny. He’s getting it inside the Beltway, but not in his home state.