INHOFE: ‘I WILL FILIBUSTER DAVID HAMILTON’…. When President Obama nominated District Court Judge David Hamilton of Indiana for the 7th Circuit last month, he did so with the big picture in mind.
Hamilton, widely considered a judicial moderate, was chosen in part because his confirmation should be easy. A White House official told the NYT Obama went with Hamilton as his first nominee to send a signal that the process need not be contentious. “We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us,” the staffer said. Support for Hamilton from Indiana’s conservative Republican senator, Richard Lugar, pointed to a process that should go smoothly.
Alas, even a deliberate White House attempt at relative comity isn’t enough for far-right senators like James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma. Inhofe, a leading candidate for the Most Embarrassing Member of the Senate award, announced on the Senate floor last night:
“I understand that Judge Hamilton’s nomination is still pending before the Judiciary Committee, but I had to come to the floor to speak so that the American people, who are very concerned about this nomination, will know that I and my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee are taking interest and are not just going to let this nomination sail through. In fact I will filibuster David Hamilton.”
There are two key angles to this. The first is the rationale. Inhofe says a filibuster is necessary because Hamilton ruled in a 2005 case called Hinrichs v. Bosmah that the Indiana House of Representatives could begin its sessions with invocations, but not allow explicit state-sponsored sectarian prayers that “proselytize or advance any one faith.” Hamilton, in other words, honored Supreme Court precedent from Marsh v. Chambers, and issued a ruling consistent with the establishment clause.
Inhofe, blasting the ruling yesterday on the Senate floor, got most of the key details of the case completely wrong — way to do your homework, James — and said he not only opposes the nomination, but also doesn’t want to even let his colleagues vote up or down on Hamilton.
Which leads us to the second angle. Sen. Inhofe believed — and argued publicly — that a Senate filibuster against a judicial nominee is not only an illegitimate use of a senator’s power, but is also literally unconstitutional. In 2003, Inhofe went so far as to say any senator who would dare filibuster a judicial nominee would necessarily be violating their oath to “support and defend the Constitution.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Inhofe doesn’t remember his own record on the issue.
Also consider, Hamilton is a judicial moderate who enjoys bipartisan support and who was chosen precisely to avoid ugly fights with right-wing ideologues like Inhofe. That Hamilton is drawing a filibuster suggests Republican obstructionism will be as fierce as it is ridiculous for the rest of the Congress.