Liberals Fight Back Against Obama Court Nominees

| Mon May 12, 2014 11:04 AM EDT

Democrats may have done away with the filibuster for judicial nominees, but the infamous blue-slip procedure remains alive and well. This means that Republican senators can still block nominees unless President Obama cuts some kind of deal with them. That's exactly what Georgia's Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have done for the past several years, so in 2013 the White House negotiated a compromise with them. They agreed to approve several of Obama's judicial nominees in return for getting their way on one of them. Now liberals are pissed:

Liberals are incensed that the administration is pushing hard for Michael Boggs, a judge on Georgia's state Court of Appeals, to join the federal bench in Georgia. Boggs, a conservative Democrat, voted while in the state Legislature to reinstate a version of the Confederate flag as the state flag, opposed same-sex marriage and took positions on abortion that critics say would have limited women's rights.

....As that fight plays out, prominent senators from both parties, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, are trying to block, or at least delay, a planned vote on Harvard law professor David Barron, whom Obama has nominated to be a judge on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from New England. As a Justice Department lawyer, Barron wrote at least one memo that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was slain by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

In one sense, it's hard to know what liberals expect here. Boggs is obviously not a good nominee, but it's not as if Obama is in love with the guy. He just agreed to swallow hard and nominate him in return for getting support for four others. Since there's nothing Obama can do about the blue-slip rule, he didn't have much choice about it. As for Barron, it's hard to be too shocked over his nomination. Obama himself approved the killing of Awlaki and has vigorously defended it. Of course he supports Barron.

But in another sense, it's good to see liberals fighting back. Maybe it won't do any immediate good, just as it doesn't always do any good for tea partiers to harass mainstream Republicans. But if the fight is rough enough, it sets boundaries for future nominations. That's probably the main benefit of opposition in this case: Both of these nominees might be approved anyway, but at least the White House will know they've been in a scrap. Maybe next time they'll think twice.