Judge Michael Boggs would be a controversial federal judicial nominee if Mitt Romney had won the 2012 election and he had submitted Boggs name for the bench. But Boggs is not a Romney nominee — he is an Obama nominee — thanks to a one-sided deal Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson extracted from the White House.
According to research by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Boggs cast several votes targeting abortion rights while he was a Georgia state lawmaker. He voted for an amendment that would have “required internet-accessible profiles of doctors to include the number of abortion procedures the doctor had provided in the previous 10 years” — thus making that information available to militant anti-abortion activists. He supported a “Choose Life” license plate that would have helped fund groups opposed to abortions. And he backed a committee to study a supposed psychological condition labeled “post-abortion syndrome.”
NARAL cites these and a few other votes in calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject his nomination. The committee will hold a hearing on his nomination Tuesday.
The pro-choice community is not alone in opposing Boggs. Several civil rights groups, as well as several prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, oppose Boggs’ nomination. They cite his vote to keep the Confederate battle emblem as part of Georgia’s state flag. Gay rights groups oppose Boggs after he not only cast a vote against marriage equality, but he also offered a strong defense of discrimination against LGBT couples. “Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Boggs said at the time of his vote against equality, “we have seldom had an opportunity to stand up for things that are common-sensical, things that stand up for Christian values.” Outlawing marriage equality, according to Boggs, is “premised on good Christian values.”
In fairness, it is highly doubtful that President Obama would have nominated Boggs — or several other Republican choices he was pressured to nominate by Chambliss and Isakson — if it wasn’t for a Senate Judiciary Committee practice that empowers Republicans to veto nominees from their home states. Since at least 1917, the Judiciary Committee allowed home-state senators to weigh in on potential judicial nominees through a piece of paper known as the blue slip. For much of this history, however, blue slips were purely advisory. The Judiciary Committee’s current chair, however, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) permits home-state senators to effectively veto nominees from their states if they do not return a blue slip supporting the nominee. Leahy is one of only two judiciary chairs in American history who has given senators this power.
In this case, Chambliss and Isakson could threaten to veto anyone nominated to judicial vacancies in their state unless the White House agreed to a slate of mostly Republican choices for those seats. Ultimately, President Obama agreed to exactly that. As part of his deal with the Georgia senators, Obama nominated six judges to various judgeships in Georgia. Four of those nominees were selected by the Republican senators. One of those nominees is Boggs.
The White House’s position, according to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, is that it is better to agree to this deal with Chambliss and Isakson than to leave the seats vacant.
That means that the fate of Boggs’ nomination — and that of the other Republican choices Obama was pressured to nominate — rests upon whether the Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee are willing to vote these nominees down. We will find out Tuesday whether the senators who attend Boggs’ confirmation hearing appear inclined to do so.