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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Conservatives Gear Up For Judges Fight

As we’ve been saying repeatedly, Republicans are gearing up for a fight over President Obama’s judicial nominees -- whoever they end up being. Spurred by speculation over the seriousness of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s illness, as well as confirmation proceedings for the president’s senior level Justice Department nominees, conservatives on and off the Hill have been throwing red meat to their base, hoping to energize them for the battles to come. Think we’re being paranoid? Just check out yesterday’s article on FOXNews.com: “Kagan Confirmation Hearing Doubles as Vetting for Potential New Justice”.

FOX News, hardly as fair and balanced as they let on, suggested that despite the lack of partisan fireworks that might accompany a judicial confirmation hearing, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee used Elena Kagan’s hearing -- on her solicitor general nomination -- to test out opposition messages. As the article points out, its long been presumed that Ms. Kagan is on the Obama administration’s “short list” for any future Supreme Court vacancies, and Senate Republicans certainly weren’t going to let an opportunity to muddy her record pass them by.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) raised concerns about the breadth of Ms. Kagan’s experience, arguing that her extensive legal background is lacking in sufficient litigation experience. Then, it was Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) turn. The ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Ms. Kagan on the president’s view that ample “heart and empathy” are desirable qualities in any Supreme Court justice. Drawing a clear connection between the Court and Ms. Kagan, Sen. Specter then asked her to acknowledge that it is the responsibility of federal judges, as well as DOJ officials to “follow the law.”

Despite the highly qualified nature of President Obama’s Justice Department nominees, almost all of them have faced considerable opposition from conservatives. Eric Holder was put through the ringer over his participation in President Clinton’s administration. David Ogden has been criticized for his position that pornography is protected by the First Amendment. And poor Tom Perrelli has been demonized for his participation in the Terri Schiavo case. As AFJ President Nan Aron told CNN, “Republican senators are gearing up for a fight…the fight of their lifetime.”

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