Controversial Obama judicial nominee moving forward in Senate

A controversial White House nominee to the federal bench will have his day before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, tapped by President Obama to sit on the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, is one of seven judicial nominees scheduled to appear before the Senate panel on Tuesday.

Boggs has stirred a firestorm of criticism for his voting record as a former Georgia state legislator, which included support for proposals to limit abortion rights, ban gay marriage and keep the Confederate battle emblem a prominent part of the state flag.

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A number of voices representing Obama's liberal base, including women's groups, gay rights advocates and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), have blasted the president's choice, which was made as part of a package judiciary deal with Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) on Thursday characterized Boggs as "a particularly egregious pick," saying he'll be lobbying the Senate Judiciary panel to oppose the nominee.

"I think the president was given bad advice," Johnson said, "and I suppose he's still proceeding on that bad advice."

"It's not good for his legacy insofar as judicial appointments in Georgia are concerned," added Johnson, a member of the CBC.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), another CBC member and the most vocal congressional opponent of Boggs, echoed that message, calling the nomination "an extraordinary slap in the face" to civil rights advocates, black and white alike.

"I served in the legislature with Boggs. I was there. And I saw white legislators, who represented the same kinds of constituency he did, put their careers on the line — lost their seats — because they moved Georgia to remove that most racial symbol," Scott said of the Confederate emblem vote. "He had a right to do what he did, to vote the way he did. But you don't reward a man who did that, when others lost their careers."

Scott has asked to testify at Tuesday's hearing, but the Senate Judiciary panel does not seat third-party witnesses for nomination hearings, a committee representative said Thursday.

The White House has pushed back against the criticism, arguing that Obama's hands are largely tied by the Senate's "blue-slip" system, which essentially empowers home-state senators to block presidential judicial picks single-handedly. 

White House spokesman Eric Schultz on Thursday said the rule "has been more problematic than the filibuster because it can act as a silent, unaccountable veto."

"But given this constraint, our choice is clear: Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant?" Schultz said. "We believe it would be grossly irresponsible for the president to leave these seats vacant."

Schultz also praised Boggs's career after he left Georgia's legislature, saying he's played a "leading role in criminal justice reform” as a state judge. 

Based on that record, "the President believes he is qualified for the federal bench," Schultz said. "Of all the recent criticisms offered against Michael Boggs, not one is based on his record as a judge for the past 10 years."

Scott, for one, rejects that argument, saying Boggs simply hasn't been tested on many of those hot-button issues during his tenure on the bench.

"He has had no civil rights cases come before him. He's had no abortion rights cases come before him. He's had no voting rights cases come before him. His record is silent," Scott said. 

"I am a staunch supporter of the president. I have supported him greatly," Scott added. "But on this, on this issue, the president is wrong."

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