Updated: 1:40 P.M. EST
In an extremely rare move, Senate Democrats have scuttled a judicial nominee selected by President Barack Obama, due to controversial positions he took as a Georgia state legislator in favor of the Confederate flag and against abortion.
Michael Boggs, a nominee to be a federal judge for the Northern District of Georgia, lacks the support to pass in the Senate Judicial Committee, said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the panel, who suggested he withdraw.
“He doesn’t have the votes,” Leahy told the New York Times.
Boggs, a state judge, was formally nominated by Obama in January as part of a deal with Georgia’s senators to overcome the “blue slip” problem, a procedural tool that the two Republicans used to block a judicial nominee to that seat. Boggs came under fire from abortion rights groups for supporting anti-abortion measures as a Democratic state legislator from 2000 to 2004, and from other progressives for backing the state’s old Confederate battle flag and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Senate Democrats aggressively questioned him in a May committee hearing, and emerged dissatisfied with his answers — he said some of the positions don’t reflect his existing views but mostly declined to discuss personal opinions. Soon afterward, top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), signaled they would not support the nomination.
Boggs has been in limbo ever since. As the Times notes, he would be the first Obama judicial nominee this session who is scuttled by Senate Democrats.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion rights group NARAL, which began fighting early to torpedo Boggs, backed up Leahy’s call for the nominee to withdraw.
“We echo Sen. Leahy’s call for Michael Boggs to withdraw his nomination,” she said in a statement on Monday. “Boggs record of support for discriminatory and callous measures affecting the lives women, communities of color, and LGBT Americans during his time in the state legislature makes clear that he is unfit to serve as a federal judge.”
The White House stood by Boggs on Monday afternoon, declining to ask him to withdraw.
“The president believes that Judge Boggs has the necessary qualifications to serve in this role,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said, saying he had heard about Leahy’s comments but hadn’t seen them. “We will not” ask Boggs to pull out, Earnest said.
For Democrats, a benefit of withdrawing the nomination would be to confirm someone else to that position before Republicans have a chance to claim the Senate majority. That’s unlikely, though, given the few working days until the next Congress is sworn in. In the wake of Democrats’ rules change, 51 votes are required to ensure confirmation of nominees other than to the Supreme Court.
This article has been updated to include late comments from the White House and NARAL.