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Blue slipOkay — this is getting ridiculous. It’s now been 264 days since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker  to become the first African-American judge in the history of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (64 days since he resubmitted her name in January).

Unfortunately, the nomination remains frozen in suspended animation because one man, Senator Richard Burr, refuses to return his “blue slip” — the modest little document (pictured at left in an image borrowed from the website of the Brennan Center for Justice) that, under Senate tradition, both Senators from the home state must return in order for such a nominee to receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What makes the whole thing that much more absurd, of course, is that Burr long ago signed off on May-Parker as the nominee. He even wrote a letter early in the Obama administration in which he specifically endorsed her for the job. Now, he won’t even answer questions about his actions in public.

This is clearly an unacceptable situation. Maybe Burr knows something the rest of us don’t. If he does, however, he owes it to his constituents to say what the heck it is. A more likely explanation seems to be that the senator is simply playing political games with a critically important matter of pubic business and, sadly thus far, getting away with it scot-free.

 

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Burr2It’s hard to know what’s worse when it comes to Senator Richard Burr’s ongoing, one-man filibuster of the woman who would be the first African-American federal judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District: the very fact of the blockade itself or the remarkably dishonest way in which the Senator is going about it.

It’s now been almost five years since Burr specifically endorsed Jennifer May-Parker (a federal prosecutor based in Raleigh) for the job to President Obama. Yet, since Obama actually made the nomination last June, Burr has steadfastly refused to submit his “blue slip” — something the quaint rules of the U.S. Senate require from home state senators in order for the nominations process to move forward.

While inexcusable enough on its own, Burr’s tight-lipped blockade is rendered downright outrageous by his duplicitous explanations for his actions. Recently, a friend of NC Policy Watch who wrote Burr on the subject, received a letter in response in which Burr, amazingly enough, said  the following: Read More

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Policy Watch has written plenty about Sen. Richard Burr’s stonewalling of a nominee whom he’d previously supported for the federal bench in eastern North Carolina  — a turnabout that’s left many scratching their heads.

Particularly disconcerting is the senator’s apparent refusal to heed his own words uttered  back in 2005, when he told his colleagues that “denying judicial nominees of both parties, who seek to serve their country, an up-or-down vote, simply is not fair.  It was certainly not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.”

Yet that’s exactly what he’s done by failing to return the blue slip for Jennifer May-Parker, raising doubts that Burr really means what he says.

Now it appears that Burr and others in the U.S. Senate who’ve resorted to the blue slip as their own type of filibuster have pushed too far.

According to this report, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will ask the Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to process nominations and send them on to a committee hearing without approval from both on a nominee’s home state senators, effectively ending the blue slip tradition.

Here’s more:

Fudge and other members of the Black Caucus say GOP Senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Richard Burr of North Carolina used the “blue slip” procedure to block the nominations of qualified African-Americans they previously endorsed for judgeships.

Rubio said he switched his stance on William Thomas’ nomination of because he had questions about Thomas’ judicial temperament and willingness to impose appropriate sentences. Burr has not explained his reasons for withholding his support for Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination.

Congressional Black Caucus members blame their actions on politics.

“They are abusing the process just because they have the power to do it,” says Fudge, adding that the Black Caucus will ask Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont to suspend use of the “blue slip” custom, as has been done in the past.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a Black Caucus member, said the U.S. Senate has failed to act on more than a dozen of President Obama’s African-American nominees, and the strategy is being used to “keep quality African-Americans from getting confirmed.”

“This is a matter of particular concern this year,” agreed Eleanor Holmes Norton, another Black Caucus member who serves as the District of Columbia’s non-voting Democratic delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. “More than any other thing a president can do, an appointment to the bench can cement his legacy.”

 

 

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Obama at lunchIf you’re sitting at your computer waiting for the President’s speech to commence at N.C. State (or in the audience staring at your smart phone), here are a few interesting links to keep you occupied:

First off, it looks like our leftist-socialist President continues to fail in his crusade to bring down capitalism. The Charlotte O reports this morning that Bank of America is the latest financial institution to report huge profits — in this case, the largest in six years.

Meanwhile click here to see the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — which has been going pretty much nowhere but up throughout the Obama years. Back to the drawing board, comrades!

As for Obama’s prominent NC critics, both Gov. (“It’s all Bev’s fault”) McCrory and Sec. Aldona (“Heck of a job, Donie!”) Wos are apparently showing up to pay their respects to the Prez today. Good for them for rising at least slightly above partisan politics. Perhaps they’re feeling some kinship with someone struggling in the polls.

If she gets to say “howdy,” though, Wos might want to ditch the “everything is Obama’s fault” rap. As Sarah Ovaska reported this morning on the main PW page, Read More

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Burr2Constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz has an excellent essay at Reuters.com about the battles over presidential appointments to the federal courts, the right’s decades-long and highly successful effort to capture this issue and the slowly-stirring effort by progressives to (finally, thank the lord!) respond.

As Schwartz notes, one positive development that may soon be on the agenda is the demise of that absurd and archaic U.S. Senate institution known as the “blue slip” — the system of “courtesy” whereby any single senator of either party may block a nominee from his or her own state without explanation.

As followers of N.C. Policy Watch are well aware, Senator Richard Burr has been one of the most egregious abusers of this silly rule for several months now with his outrageous and unexplained blockage of an African-American federal prosecutor named Jennifer May-Parker whom President Obama nominated to fill an eight-year-old vacancy on the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina last June.  Thus far, because of Burr’s silent refusal to give his blessing, May-Parker has not even received a hearing — a fact rendered all the more outrageous by the fact (noted in this space last week) that Burr endorsed her for the job in 2009!

Let’s hope senators act soon to repeal this absurd rule — something Republicans did when they were in charge of the Senate Judiciary during the Bush administration.  And let’s hope that this time, it’s a once-and-for-all decision.