Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has an A rating with NARAL Pro-Choice America. But the group isn’t thrilled with Rhode Island’s most progressive member of Congress because he plans to support Georgia judicial nominee Michael Boggs.
“There’s a judicial nominee who would be a huge threat to reproductive rights if he’s confirmed,” says an action email from NARAL-Pro Choice yesterday. “And your U.S. senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, just came out in support of him.”
“Whitehouse has gone out on a limb opposing judicial nominees because of their hostility to reproductive rights in the past,” says the email. “He should have been one of the first senators speaking up against Boggs’ nomination – but instead, he’s the first pro-choice senator to support Boggs.”
Whitehouse told RI Future his support for Boggs’ nomination is based purely on Senate tradition of “deferring to the judgment of home state Senators.”
“I share the concerns of many about Michael Boggs’s record as a legislator in Georgia, and I strongly disagree with many of the positions he has taken,” he said. “For District Court vacancies, there is a long tradition in the Senate of deferring to the judgment of home state Senators, when both Senators agree on the nominee – as is the case with Mr. Boggs. I have expected this deference when it comes to nominees in my own state, and I generally hold myself to the same standard to which I have held others. I’m continuing to weigh my concerns about Mr. Boggs’s record with my respect for this Senate principle, and have not made a decision about how I will vote.”
Boggs is up for a lifetime appointment to the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and his nomination was thought to be all but over, with many wondering why Boggs continues to fight for a seat he so obviously will not get. However, Whitehouse’s support could change all that.
As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Boggs voted “to keep the confederate insignia on the Georgia state flag, to tighten restrictions on access to abortion and to ban same-sex marriage.” Boggs has also defended voter ID laws similar to those the Obama administration is challenging in Texas. One wonders what Obama was thinking in nominating a man so obviously unfit to be a judge.
Whitehouse has laid out his logic in backing Boggs, but supporters of little things like Human Rights are finding small comfort in the senator’s explanation. According to Todd Ruger at RollCall, Whitehouse,
…said in an interview on Tuesday that he backs district court nominees who have the support of their home-state senators.
Whitehouse said he spoke on the Senate floor in 2010 of the “powerful spirit of deference” to home-state senators, as Republicans tried to filibuster U.S. District Judge John McConnell for the federal bench in the District of Rhode Island. McConnell was confirmed in 2011.“It would be inconsistent of me to depart from that now,” Whitehouse said.
Given that Whitehouse has an A rating from NARAL and is generally considered a progressive, he should know better than to support Boggs. Call Senator Whitehouse to let him know that you oppose Michael Bogg’s confirmation at 401-453-5294. You can also sign NARAL’s online petition here.