Opinion

Republican Rand Paul and Democrat John Lewis stand as roadblocks to Obama judicial nominees

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Judicial Branch,Rand Paul,Drones,Nominations,Kevin Daley

Two of the most prominent personalities in Congress hold the key to a pair of President Obama's judicial nominees.

The first is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who on Wednesday planned a talkathon against the confirmation vote of David J. Barron, a Harvard Law professor and former Justice Department official nominated to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Barron, in his capacity as a Justice Department attorney, was the principal author of a memo justifying the president's authority to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader in Yemen who was also a U.S. citizen. Awlaki was killed in Yemen in a drone strike in 2011.

"You must try and convict someone before you punish them" Paul wrote in an op-ed to the Boston Herald. "For further explanation, please refer to the Fifth Amendment."

On May 20, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the White House had made all written legal advice from Barron on the subject of extrajudicial strikes against American citizens abroad available to senators, in the hopes of assuaging wavering Democrats. The Senate Democratic leadership invited senior White House lawyers to brief their conference on the nomination but many, including Sen. Mark Udall, D-Co., were left unswayed by the gesture.

Meanwhile, opposition from Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., may sink Obama's nomination of Michael Boggs to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

The Boggs nomination came with the blessing of Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson as part of a deal to fill several judicial vacancies in the state. But he's drawn opposition from Democrats because of his service in the Georgia legislature, where he voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and to retain the Confederate insignia on the Georgia state flag.

"I'm going to oppose him" Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on May 15. "He's a person who's not, in my opinion, in the mainstream, and I don't think he deserves to be a federal judge."

Lewis, a highly respected civil rights leader, came out against Boggs on May 19 after at first suggesting he might support his confirmation -- an action which drew harsh condemnation from other black Democrats, including this tweet from fellow Georgia Rep. David Scott.


Lewis is set to have further meetings with Senate Democrats, and the fate of Boggs' nomination may hinge on the outcomes.
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