May 9, 2008
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
McCain Talks Tough on Judges But Can He Be Trusted?
Senator John McCain gave a speech recently on the need to appoint judges that interpret laws rather than legislate from the bench. There was a lot to like about what he had to say on judicial activism. McCain said, "The moral authority of our judiciary depends on judicial self restraint," and railed against the "systematic abuse" by judges who push their liberal agendas through judicial fiat. He also took issue with "Senate obstructionism" practiced by liberals who are blocking the president’s judicial nominees. The speech seems designed to help McCain firm up his conservative base.
But here’s the problem. Senator McCain has made it harder to confirm judicial conservatives to the bench. (Judicial Watch neither opposes nor endorses candidates for public office.)
While Senator McCain’s speech properly chastised liberals in the Senate for blocking judicial nominees, what did McCain do when he had the chance to help stop them cold? Well, here he is, in his own words:
"Of course, in the daily routine of Senate obstructionism, presidential nominees to the lower courts are now lucky if they get a hearing at all. These courts were created long ago by the Congress itself, on what then seemed the safe assumption that future Senates would attend to their duty to fill them with qualified men and women nominated by the president. Yet at this moment there are 31 nominations pending…Things almost got even worse a few years ago, when there were threats of a filibuster to require 60 votes for judicial confirmations, and threats in reply of a change in Senate rules to prevent a filibuster. A group of senators, nicknamed the "Gang of 14," got together and agreed we would not filibuster unless there were ‘extraordinary circumstances.’"
McCain went on to defend the deal he helped broker, saying it "showed that serious differences can be handled in a serious way, without allowing Senate business to unravel in a chaos of partisan anger."
I have two responses to these statements.
First, using a filibuster to block an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees is flat out "unconstitutional." (See Judicial Watch’s landmark lawsuit filed against the Senate.) I don’t care how "extraordinary" the circumstances, there is never a good reason to violate the U.S. Constitution’s "advice and consent" clause in the interest of political expediency.
And second, no one was advocating the "chaos of partisan anger" as the antidote to the liberal hijacking of the judicial confirmation process. Principled conservatives simply were asking that the Constitution’s rules be followed by the U.S. Senate in the consideration of judicial nominations. That "chaos of partisan anger" talk sounds more like Patrick Leahy than a principled conservative.
In the end, some fine judicial nominees who would have embodied McCain’s stated judicial philosophy are not on the bench because of him and his "Gang of 14."
New JW Panel: "Election 2008: What the Media Isn’t Telling You"
Next Thursday, May 15, Judicial Watch will host an educational panel entitled, "Election 2008: What the Media Isn’t Telling You." The panel will be held here at 1:00 p.m. in the National Press Club (in Washington, DC) and will feature special guests Jim Bopp, Attorney for Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom; Cliff Kincaid, Editor of the Accuracy in Media Report; and Curt Levey, Executive Director of the Committee for Justice.
Our discussion will highlight issues being downplayed by much of the media during this election season, including political scandals, problems in the campaign finance system, and current and future battles over judges.
If you are interested in attending next week’s panel, we would love to have you join us. (All of Judicial Watch’s educational panels are free of charge.) To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-646-5172.
Whither the FEC?
One topic we’ll discuss with next week’s panel is the dismal state of affairs at the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The agency charged with enforcing our campaign finance laws has been moribund by the failure of the Senate to confirm pending nominations that would give the Commission its quorum (it currently has only two of six members). Senate Democrats oppose Republican FEC nominee Hans von Spakovsky because he allegedly refused to attack voter identification laws while at the Department of Justice. Liberal opposition to his nomination has not diminished even in the face of the recent Supreme Court decision which upheld the right of states to require some form of identification for voters. As a result, Republicans have refused to budge on Democratic nominees to the FEC, which is supposed to be made up of Democrat and Republican appointees.
So the FEC has been unable to issue decisions or levy fines, as it lacks the necessary 4-person quorum. A recent effort by the White House to break the impasse has led to even more controversy. The White House sent the Senate a new slate of nominees that included von Spakovsky but did not include current FEC Chairman David Mason. Democrats are screaming that Mason is being pushed out of the FEC because he is at odds with Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. (They’re probably right.)
This partisan struggle exposes so much about the way this corrupt city operates.
Can one really expect the FEC to fairly administer our nation’s campaign finance laws when the members of its governing body are appointed according to the rules of naked political patronage?
Until next week…
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