Hoyer backs CBC on judicial nominees

Greg Nash

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) found a strong ally Tuesday in their fight against some of President Obama's judicial nominees, as Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested the Senate should reject several of the picks in the name of diversity.

"I certainly share the CBC's concerns," Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol.

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The CBC members – including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement – say the slate of nominees Obama has tapped for the federal bench in several southern states lacks the ethnic diversity of the regions they would serve. Furthermore, they contend that two nominees in Georgia have championed controversial, race-related policies that should disqualify them out of hand.

One pick had voted as a state legislator to keep the Confederate battle emblem a part of the state flag; another had defended Georgia's new voter ID law, which Democrats consider discriminatory.

The picks were the product of negotiations between the White House and Georgia's GOP senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

Hoyer acknowledged that upper-chamber procedures give senators an outsized voice in choosing federal judges. Still, he called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not to simply rubber stamp the nominees.

"The Senate, you know, has customs and deference to the incumbent senators in any state – I understand that," Hoyer said.

"But I would hope that Sen. Reid and Senate leadership would look to the best interest of the country and the broad spectrum of beliefs in the country represented on the bench."

The White House has defended its nominees, noting that the Obama administration has confirmed more black judges than the Bush and even the Clinton administrations. But the argument has done little to appease members of the CBC, who are quick to point out that the judges will remain long after Obama has left the White House.

It's a point that hasn't been overlooked by Hoyer.

"Clearly, federal judges that serve for life … undoubtedly have a policy impact," he added. "And so I'm sympathetic to the concerns of the Congressional Black Caucus."