Whitehouse Under Fire for Not Opposing Georgia Judicial Nominee

Posted September 11, 2014 at 8:06pm

An abortion rights group on Thursday criticized Sen. 

Sheldon Whitehouse

, D-R.I., for not opposing a controversial nominee to a federal district court in Georgia.

The president of NARAL Pro-Choice America 


 Whitehouse after his comments Tuesday about nominee Michael P. Boggs. Whitehouse, when asked if he would vote for Boggs at the Senate Judiciary Committee level, said that he backs district court nominees who have the support of their home-state senators – which Boggs has.


Whitehouse then said it would be inconsistent to change that position now.


NARAL Pro-Choice America disagreed.


“Senatorial courtesy should never be more important than opposing a nominee with such a demonstrated hostility to so many fundamental freedoms, and who is so clearly unfit for a lifetime position on the federal bench,” Ilyse Hogue wrote.


Other Senate Democrats have voiced opposition to Boggs’ nomination based on positions Boggs took on abortion and same-sex marriage as a Democratic state lawmaker in Georgia in the early 2000s. The White House has supported Boggs’ nomination as part of a larger deal cut with Georgia’s two Republican senators to move a group of district and appellate court nominees from the state.


Boggs’ nomination has not been scheduled for action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.


The committee approved all the other Georgia judicial nominees in June. No new information about Boggs has been posted on the committee website since then.


Hogue’s letter points out that Whitehouse, during his campaign for Senate, “took a principled stand against a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, on the basis of his opposition to abortion rights.”


“Then, you took a strong position supporting reproductive rights in the context of judicial nominations,” Hogue wrote. “Now, you have indicated that one senator’s deference to another should trump our hard-fought freedoms.”


Whitehouse’s comments to CQ Roll Call on Tuesday prompted the letter. When asked about his committee vote, Whitehouse 

told CQ Roll Call

 that he spoke on the Senate floor in 2010 of the “powerful spirit of deference” to home-state senators when Republicans were trying to block a Rhode Island district court nominee. “It would be inconsistent of me to depart from that now,” Whitehouse said.


After NARAL released its letter to the media Thursday, Whitehouse issued a written statement that said he has expected that deference for his state’s nominees, “and I generally hold myself to the same standard to which I have held others.”


“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,” Whitehouse said in the statement.


And Whitehouse’s statement said his final decision has not been made, despite his Tuesday comments. “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,” the statement said.