Wickham: John Lewis vs. Barack Obama | USAToday.com

6
Jan

Wickham: John Lewis vs. Barack Obama | USAToday.com

This is not a civil rights battle that Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., ever wanted to wage. But it’s one he says he must fight – and win.

At issue is the White House’s submission of a slate of six nominees for federal judgeships in Georgia – two to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and four to district court judgeships in the state’s Northern District. Among the nominees is an attorney who defended Georgia’s sweeping voter ID law, which many civil rights activists say is designed to suppress black voter turnout. Another is a former state representative who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag emblem on the Georgia state flag. And the only black among the six nominees is a Republican woman.

There has never been a black female Democrat appointed to a federal judgeship in Georgia, Lewis pointed out during a telephone interview. “Black women vote in a higher percentage than any other group in Georgia,” and they vote overwhelmingly Democratic, he said. “I think the president should do better by them.”

At stake in this fight, opponents of the backroom deal say, are some hard-won civil rights victories that might be undermined if these appointments are confirmed. Also at risk, it seems, is the special relationship between Lewis, an icon of the 1960s civil rights movement, and President Obama, who in 2010 awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom for dedicating his life “to shattering barriers and fighting injustice.”

Lewis and two other men Obama gave the nation’s highest civilian award – the Rev, C.T. Vivian and the Rev. Joseph Lowery – have joined forces to keep the Senate from confirming this controversial slate, which was born of an arcane Senate rule that gives U.S. senators the power to block a vote on anyone nominated to a federal judgeship in their state. The”blue slip” practice is essentially a pocket veto of a president’s judicial picks.

Democrats have threatened to change this rule, just as they altered the ability of the Senate’s Republican minority to use a filibuster to keep a presidential nomination from being voted on. But so far, they haven’t moved beyond veiled threats.

The slate Obama has agreed to is the product of a deal he brokered with the state’s two Republican senators – Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. In return for Obama accepting three Republican-backed candidates for judicial appointments in Georgia, Lewis said the Georgia Senators agree to Obama’s three nominees.

“I think he’s just been listening to some of the wrong people and just getting some bad advice from his legal counsel,” Lewis said.

“It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not easy to stand up to your president and say you got it wrong. But we’ve got to look beyond the next three years (of Obama’s presidency). These people are going to get a lifetime appointment,” he said.

via Wickham: John Lewis vs. Barack Obama.

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