The Judicial Crisis Network, a right-wing group that advocates for a conservative judiciary, has launched a TV ad campaign against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR). The $100,000-plus expenditure slams Pryor for supporting cloture on President Obama’s three appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But the group, originally called the Judicial Confirmation Network, was among the most vocal supporters of “fair” treatment of judicial nominees during the George W. Bush administration, including up-or-down majority votes for all.
When Democrats filibustered some Bush nominees, the Judicial Confirmation Network formed to push for judges to be confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate. “JCN works to ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote,” they said on their official website. From 2005 through 2008, the group urged “filibuster reform” and fought to make sure no one nominated to be a federal judge was subject to a three-fifths threshold. In a 2005 press conference, the group’s counsel argued that the Constitution required judges be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate and that that applies regardless of the party of the president:
WENDY LONG: One other thing, and that is that if at some point in the future there is a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the Senate, they, under Article II of the Constitution, will have the same imperative and the same obligation and the same duty. The president selects the judges. So if it were President Kerry, under Article II of the Constitution, President Kerry would be the one who would nominate the judges, and a majority of the Senate would then be able to say yes or not to President Kerry’s nominations. It’s the same situation regardless of what party’s in power.
But after President Obama became president, the group did a 180. It changed its name to remove “confirmation” and dropped its demand for fair treatment of nominees. Its new mission became ensuring that only “highly qualified individuals” who share their vision of limited government and rule of law “comprise our state and federal courts.” The group has consistently opposed Obama’s judicial nominees.
Now, it is targeting Pryor for supporting cloture — and holding a majority confirmation vote — on Obama’s nominees to the conservative-dominated U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely regarded as the second most powerful court in the country. Because he supported a cloture motion on one of Obama’s nominees to an open seat, their ad accuses him of “helping Obama pack the court with new liberal judges.”
Watch the spot:
The ad also claims that Pryor “voted for every one of Obama’s liberal activist judges,” but lists two nominees who never actually got to a vote, due to GOP filibusters (Caitlin Halligan and Goodwin Liu). Judicial Crisis Network opposed both and mocked Democrats for “asking for Republicans to unilaterally disarm” by keeping their earlier vows to follow the Constitution and allow majority votes on all judges.
The group concedes that Pryor actually helped to confirm several of the Bush nominees, but argues that because he voted against one — Miguel Estrada in 2003 (when President Obama was still in the Illinois state legislature) — the Arkansas Senator “puts Obama first and Arkansas last.”