Tags: Barack Obama | Supreme Court | endorsement | nomination

White House, McConnell Clash Over ABA Endorsement, Confirmation History

Image: White House, McConnell Clash Over ABA Endorsement, Confirmation History
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Wednesday, 22 Jun 2016 03:56 PM Current | Bio | Archive

On Tuesday, the White House read the strong endorsement of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland by the American Bar Association (ABA) and its conclusion that the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington “merits their highest rating.”

“The ABA, of course, is just the latest in a long line of well-respected voices from across the political spectrum, agreeing that Chief Judge Garland has a record of judicial excellence,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

But no sooner had Earnest again called for Senate hearings on Garland’s nomination than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fired back. A spokesman for McConnell pointed out to me that Democrats in the Senate have a history of ignoring the ABA’s highest rating for judicial nominees when they were given to nominees of a Republican president named George W. Bush.

“When the ABA gave Justice [Samuel] Alito their highest rating — unanimously — in 2006,” McConnell’s spokesman David Popp told me, "then Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del., turned around and joined a filibuster to block his nomination.

“They weren’t alone — 25 Senate Democrats joined the filibuster attempt.”

Popp went on to note that then-Sen. Obama said on the Senate floor Alito “has received the highest rating from the ABA,” but then went on to say that despite the unanimous rating, “I will vote no and urge my colleagues to vote no on this confirmation.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.191, 1/26/06).

He went on to list seven Bush appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals that received the ABA’s coveted “well qualified” who were each the subject of filibusters from Senate Democrats: Miguel Estrada, Richard Griffin, Priscilla Owen, William H. Pryor, Jr., Charles W. Pickering, Sr., Carolyn Kuhl and David McKeague.

The White House and McConnell also clashed over the history of nominating Supreme Court justices in presidential election years. During the briefing, I cited to Earnest McConnell’s historical reference to a longstanding tradition of not doing this.

"It's been 76 years since a vacancy on the Supreme Court emerged during a presidential election year that has been confirmed [Justice Frank Murphy]," McConnell told Newsmax earlier this year.

"You have to go back to Grover Cleveland in 1888 to find the last time a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurring in the middle of a presidential election was confirmed by a Senate controlled by the opposite party [Justice Lucius Q.C. Lamar]."

“Well, unfortunately, with Senator McConnell the facts are just not on his side,” Earnest told me, “You’ll recall — and, John, you may have covered this back in 1988 — we were in exactly the same situation.

"You had a Republican President of the United States who was asking a United States Senate that was controlled by the other party to confirm in an election year, in that President’s final year in office, his appointee to a lifetime term on the Supreme Court.

"And what Democrats who were in charge of the Senate in 1988 did was they confirmed Justice Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy continues to serve on our Supreme Court.”

He went on to say “[S]o often people want to say, well, you know that Democrats would be doing the same thing if the shoe were on the other foot. The shoe was on the other foot and Democrats did not do the same thing. Democrats actually did their job.”

When I asked Earnest if this was to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Lewis Powell, he replied: “I believe that’s correct.”

When I pointed out that Powell retired in 1987, a year before the election, the president’s top spokesman said “But it was in 1988 that the Republican President of the United States was asking the Democratic Senate to confirm his nominee to fill that vacancy.”

Powell announced his retirement on June 27, 1987 and, days later, President Reagan named Judge Robert Bork to succeed him.

Following Bork’s rejection by the Democratic-controlled Senate on October 23, 1987 and the withdrawal of subsequent nominee Douglas Ginsburg, Kennedy’s nomination was sent to the Senate on November 11, 1987.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.










 

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On Tuesday, the White House read the strong endorsement of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland by the American Bar Association (ABA) and its conclusion that the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington “merits their highest rating.”
endorsement, nomination
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2016-56-22
Wednesday, 22 Jun 2016 03:56 PM
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