Opposing judicial nominees at the genetic level

OPPOSING JUDICIAL NOMINEES AT THE GENETIC LEVEL…. The great irony of the partisan fight over judicial nominees is that President Obama was absolutely committed to avoiding it.

Just two months into the Obama presidency, the White House nominated David Hamilton, a moderate, to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He’d previously won bipartisan praise, officials freely admitted that the selection was intended to send a signal that the process of filling vacancies need not be contentious. “We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us,” a White House aide said at the time.

As is usually the case when one counts on congressional Republicans to appreciate gestures of goodwill, this effort failed miserably. GOP senators not only filibustered Hamilton, but also blocked the entire process of filling judicial vacancies to a point unseen in American history. Obama, in the spirit of bipartisanship, tried to end the confirmation wars. Simultaneously, Republicans preferred a surge.

There’s been some movement of late, but the obstructionism on this has been extraordinary. One of the lead Republican crusaders on this took some time yesterday to explain why.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) railed against President Barack Obama’s nominees to the federal bench on Tuesday afternoon, complaining that Obama was only nominating individuals with “ACLU DNA” and rattling off a list of potential judges who are now or have ever been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I’m sure that less than one percent of the lawyers in America are members of the ACLU,” Sessions said. “It seems if you have the ACLU DNA, you get a pretty good leg up to being nominated by this president.” […]

“It’s clear that the president, our president, an activist — a community activist, a liberal progressive as his friends have described him, and former law professor, is attempting to pack the courts who share his views and who will promote his vision of what, as he has said about judges, what America should be,” Sessions said.

“I do believe the administration needs to understand that this is going to be a more contentious matter if we keep seeing the ACLU chromosome as part of this process,” Sessions said.

How many of Obama’s judicial nominees have any background with the ACLU? Sessions didn’t say. Do any have any formal connections with the ACLU? Sessions didn’t say. What’s wrong, exactly, with a group committed to protecting American civil liberties? Sessions didn’t say.

But Sessions thinks some of these would-be judges might have been nominated because of agreements with the ACLU at a genetic level, and that’s good enough reason to him to create a genuine vacancy crisis in the federal courts, which is seriously undermining the ability of the legal system to function effectively.

Sessions didn’t use to think this way. Just a few years ago, when there were delays on Bush’s judicial nominees, the crypto-segregationist Alabama senator said denying jurists an up-or-down vote was an American tragedy, inconsistent with a process that has been in place “since the founding of the republic.”

I guess he’s changed his mind.

But there’s a related point Sessions ought to keep in mind: he has the ability to vote against judges he doesn’t like. Regrettably, he doesn’t think that’s good enough, and insists on ensuring that these nominees aren’t able to get a vote at all.

I suspect when there’s a Republican president, and Democrats are noting the problems with nominees with “Federalist Society DNA,” Sessions will magically reverse course once again.