Obama's Judicial Pick in Danger Over Support of Drone Killing

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 11:45 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama’s pick for a powerful federal appeals court was in peril on Tuesday after it was revealed that the nominee had written legal opinions supporting the U.S. killing of an American citizen overseas with a drone.

David Barron, a former Justice Department lawyer in the Obama administration and now a Harvard Law School professor, is facing doubts from both Republicans and Democrats, The New York Times reported.

Barron was chosen by the president last year to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and he only needs 51 votes in the Senate for confirmation, meaning that a handful of Democrats could defect and he would still be approved.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding up the vote on the judicial nominee as more questions are raised over his controversial opinions.

Republicans are concerned about Barron’s radical liberal views on the Constitution, while Democrats who are vulnerable in the midterms are fearful that they may anger voters at home by backing the nominee.

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, has written to all 100 senators this week, urging them to put off a vote on Barron’s confirmation until the White House released his legal memos on the drone program, written while he was at the Justice Department, according to the Times.

And even the White House appeared to be wavering, as the administration said it would not proceed with the nomination until it had decided how to release information on Barron’s opinions justifying drone strikes.

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul also vowed to hinder Barron’s confirmation if the administration did not release one of the legal documents Barron had written about drones. Last year, in a 13-hour Senate speech, Paul demanded more information from the White House about drone justification.

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said during Barron’s confirmation hearings that he doubted whether a person with such "a progressive view of the Constitution" could serve on the federal bench, the Times reported.

On the Democratic side, embattled Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are uncertain whether they will approve Barron’s nomination, due to worries about upsetting voters in November.

In a Freedom of Information Act suit, a court has ordered the White House to turn over Barron’s drone memos from his time in the Justice Department. But the administration is delaying the release while weighing whether to appeal, the Times added.

Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark Udall said he would not support Barron’s nomination if the administration did not hand over the memos. And Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon also said the final vote in the Senate should not proceed without Barron’s opinions being made public.

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