The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Michael Boggs, a nominee to be a federal judge in Georgia who has drawn intense criticism from some of President Barack Obama’s strongest allies for his past positions on abortion, gay marriage and the Confederate flag.
Dozens of progressive advocacy groups, led by the reproductive rights organization NARAL, are undertaking an aggressive campaign to keep Boggs off the federal bench, activating their members to demand that senators vote against him. They point to his votes from 2000 to 2004, when he was a Democratic Georgia state representative, for numerous anti-abortion bills including one to apply criminal penalties for child abuse to those who are “both born and unborn” and another to study the effects of “post-abortion syndrome.”
“Michael Boggs has no business being on the federal bench,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL. “Our judicial branch is too important to risk appointing someone whose record and stated values are out of line with our nation’s commitment to women’s fundamental rights.”
NARAL enlisted Rep. David Scott (D-GA) to write their 500,000 members an email expressing outrage over Boggs’ vote in 2001 vote to keep the old Georgia flag, a prominent portion of which was the Confederate battle flag. “I’m as surprised and outraged as you are to be fighting an anti-civil rights, anti-choice, anti-marriage equality nominee put forward by Obama’s White House to serve on the federal bench in my home state in Georgia,” he wrote, saying the Senate ought to reject someone whose “values should have been left behind in the 1950s.”
On Monday the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT activist group, slammed Boggs’ “troubling record,” citing his 2004 vote for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, saying it demonstrates his “hostility towards issues of equality.” Boggs will have to “explain his choices” at the Judiciary hearing, HRC’s legislative counsel Robin Maril said in a statement.
Other liberal activist groups opposing Boggs include Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the National Organization for Women.
The White House is standing by Boggs, who is part of a deal struck with Georgia’s Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson to fill seven judicial vacancies in the state — including two on the important 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Although Democrats now only need 51 votes to confirm these nominees, the two senators bottled up Obama’s picks in Georgia with the use of the “blue slip” courtesy, which lets a home-state senator veto a prospective judge.
“Our choice is clear: do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise or should we leave the seats vacant?” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Monday, suggesting “abuse” of the blue slip rule on the part of Chambliss and Isakson. “Based on Judge Boggs’ ten-year track record as a state trial and appellate court judge, the President believes he is qualified for the federal bench.”
Schultz also said the left’s criticisms are about Boggs’ record as a legislator representing conservative constituents and not his record as a judge on Georgia state courts since 2004. “Of all the recent criticisms offered against Michael Boggs, not one is based on his record as a judge for the past 10 years,” he said.
Liberals note that President Barack Obama doesn’t have to nominate someone who is amenable to Republicans because the “blue slip” is simply a courtesy that Democrats can ditch. The White House has griped about it before, but it is ultimately deferring to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has chosen to abide by it. Some prior Judiciary chairmen have adhered to the custom more closely than others.
Senate Democrats have been largely quiet about Boggs, caught between the liberal base and the White House. Among the Judiciary Committee senators who will have to weigh in on Boggs are the second and third ranking Democrats, Dick Durbin (IL) and Chuck Schumer (NY), along with three female pro-choice senators, Dianne Feinstein (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mazie Hironi (HI).