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Senate GOP allows judicial confirmation of ex-Planned Parenthood director

From the diaries by Erick

As so often seem to be the case, the GOP doesn’t follow the Democratic playbook when it comes to obstruction. They caved when it came to a vote last week on the nomination of Jack McConnell as a US District Court Judge. He’s only 52 or 53, so we can look forward to decades of his rulings.

Among the items on his resume are being the unpaid director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and being involved in successful tobacco litigation, for which he’s still due to receive $2-3M/year for another 13 years. He’s been a trial lawyer for 25 years.

It’s not difficult to figure out what we can expect in terms of his judicial philosophy.

Jack McConnell has long been active in the Rhode Island Democratic Party and has been a heavy contributor to Democratic campaigns. In a Jan. 7, 2003 op-ed in The Providence Journal, he explained what it should mean to be a Democrat.

“We as Democrats should stand for an active government,” McConnell, then the treasurer of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee wrote in the op-ed. “Sen. Ted Kennedy reminded us that ‘the mission of government is not to stand on the sidelines, but to be active in pursuing [the principles of fairness, opportunity, equal justice] for all people.’”

Remember when the ABA rating was the “gold standard”? Any Bush nominee who was anything other than unanimously well-qualified was automatically worthy of filibuster. McConnell ended up with substantial majority qualified / minority unqualified (plus three abstentions). Gee, that sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

According to RI Senators Reed and Whitehouse it means “Jack McConnell is eminently qualified” according to a joint statement they issued. According to that same article, this all goes back to a deal McConnell made with Reid in January to cut back on filibusters in exchange for the chance to offer more amendments.

11 Republicans voted for cloture, giving it 63 votes, and then against the nomination:
Lamar Alexander
Scott Brown
Susan Collins
Olympia Snowe
Saxby Chambliss
Johnny Isakson
Lindsey Graham
Mark Kirk
John McCain
Lisa Murkowski
John Thune

Most of them gave the typical excuses: free passes to lower court nominees, elections matter, they deserve up or down votes, etc. Let me just pick one to highlight: Johnny Isakson.

“I voted against the confirmation of John McConnell to be a U.S. District judge. I voted in favor of invoking cloture on his nomination only to allow the Senate to proceed to a final up-or-down vote on his confirmation,” Isakson told CNSNews.com in a statement.

Isakson, and other Republicans, said they did not want to duplicate the tactics of Senate Democrats who blocked numerous of President George W. Bush judicial nominees by refusing to support a cloture vote that would allow their nominations to come up for a final vote on the Senate floor.

“As I said repeatedly during the years President Bush was in office, I believe every president deserves an up-or-down vote on their judicial nominees,” Isakson said. “In addition, the U.S. Constitution says it is the Senate’s responsibility to give ‘advice and consent’ to the president’s judicial nominees, and the way to comply with the Constitution is to have an up-or-down vote on these nominees.”

Yesterday Isakson voted against cloture on the nomination of James Cole as Deputy AG. So apparently he feels it’s fine to have an activist judge who’ll give 30 years of terrible rulings, but that it’s okay to deny an up or down vote to a guy who’d work under Holder – where we know how that will work out no matter who it is – for at most 5-1/2 years and hopefully for only 18 months. And the Constitutional Advice and Consent clause isn’t limited to judicial nominations Sen Isakson, so you’re attempting to mislead us by using it as the excuse in one case and then breaking it in another.

McConnell’s nomination did have a couple of first for this session however. It was the first nomination that needed a cloture vote and it was the first one that had any Republicans vote against it. Here are the results of nominations of district judges prior to last week:
2/7 – Diana Saldana (TX) – 94-0
2/7/ Paul Jones (AR) – 95-0
2/14 Edward Davile (CA) – 93-0
2/28 – Steve Jones (GA) – 90-0
3/7 – James Shadid (IL) – 89-0
3/7 – Anthony Battaglia (CA) – 89-0
3/10 – Max Cogburn (NC) – 96-0
3/14 – James Boasberg (DC) – 96-0
3/17 – Amy Jackson (DC) – 97-0
3/28 – Mae D’Agostino (NY) – 88-0
4/4 – Jimmie Reyna (MD) – 86-0 (corrected – Federal Circuit, not DC Circuit)
4/12 – John Kronstadt (CA) – 96-0
5/3 – Kevin Sharp (TN) – 89-0

Update: As pointed out in the comments, Reyna was nominated for the Federal Circuit, not the DC Circuit (a BIG difference), so my original comments below are apples vs oranges. Sorry for the confusion.

Can you imagine a Bush nominee to the DC Circuit getting a unanimous vote like Jimmie Reyna did? Miguel Estrada was filibustered off entirely, in no small part thanks to the infamous “gang”, several of whom helped McConnell here. It took two years to get Janice Rogers Brown confirmed. It took over a year to get Thomas Griffith confirmed. It took three years to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. Jimmie Reyna took barely seven months.

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