May 10, 2011

Judges War; Dems Play Race Card

Statement of CFJ Executive Director Curt Levey:

When Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last week that he would push for votes on President Obama’s most controversial judicial and Justice Department nominees, we warned that it was essentially a declaration of war on the judges issue. Speaking on the Senate floor this afternoon, Sen. Grassley, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, made it clear that Reid’s declaration of war would have negative repercussions. They include a likely end to the bipartisan cooperation that has seen twenty judges confirmed during the last 46 days the Senate has been in session. Grassley lamented that
“[R]ather than continuing to move forward with consensus nominees, the other side has chosen [a fight over] the President’s most controversial nominees. I must say, this makes it extremely difficult to continue to work in a good faith effort to move forward on non-controversial nominees.”
Highlighting Democrats “insist[ence] on taking detours and throwing up roadblocks to this cooperative effort,” Grassley noted that
“[L]ast week, after moving forward with two [non-controversial] district court judges, the Majority Leader filed cloture on one of President Obama’s most controversial nominees, Mr. Jack McConnell. And now this week, the Majority Leader has turned to two more of the President’s controversial nominees.”
Grassley is referring to Deputy Attorney General nominee James Cole, who was defeated on a cloture vote yesterday, and Edward Chen, who was confirmed to the U.S. District Court late this afternoon. Grassley pointed out that “despite the unanimous Republican opposition” to Chen, GOP senators agreed not to force a cloture vote or extended debate on Chen. However, Sen. Grassley’s remarks make it clear that the Democrats cannot expect that sort of cooperation going forward.

Democratic senators took advantage of this afternoon’s floor debate on Chen to shamelessly play the race card. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy denounced GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions’ past remark that Chen has “the ACLU chromosome,” charging that it harkens back to an earlier disgraceful—and presumably racist—era. Leahy is well aware that Sessions’ remark referred to Chen’s 16 years of employment as an ACLU lawyer, not to his Asian ancestry.

Sen. Diane Feinstein was more subtle in trying to link opposition to Chen with anti-Asian racism. She displayed large photos of this nation’s World War II-era Japanese internment camps throughout her floor remarks, far more than was necessary to make the point that Chen once worked on an internment camp-related case.