On Tuesday, the Senate voted 70-29 to invoke cloture on Judge David Hamilton, clearing the way for a confirmation vote for the controversial Obama nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Senator Jeff Sessions had a hold on the nomination for weeks and demanded the cloture vote, citing the judge’s radical judicial record.
In a recent speech to the Federalist Society, Senator Sessions quoted Hamilton as saying a judge’s job is to “write footnotes to the Constitution.” And Sessions also criticized Hamilton for arguing that judges “need to empathize” with the parties of cases rather than dispassionately and equitably applying the rule of law.
Ten Republicans broke ranks with their party on this vote: Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John Thune of South Dakota.
This differs drastically with the Senate Democrat caucus. They voted in lockstep—all 60 members—for cloture, demonstrating a party loyalty and discipline that has been lacking for Republicans in the current Congressional session.
Though, in hindsight, it is clear that Republicans did not have the votes to sustain the filibuster, that does not excuse the GOP defectors. As ALG President Bill Wilson commented yesterday, “Every election cycle, Republican candidates for Senate state their commitment to bringing judges to the federal bench who will help restore the role of constitutionally limited government in American jurisprudence. Instead, Republican and conservative constituents have been betrayed by their own Senators.”
Hamilton was clearly no strict legal constructionist. A coalition letter from 24 conservative leaders late last week urged all members of the Senate to filibuster Hamilton because of his views on the law. According to the letter, Judge Hamilton has ruled “that prayers to Jesus Christ offered at the beginning of legislative sessions violate the Constitution, but that prayers to Allah do not”, chose to follow mandatory sentencing guidelines, overturned a sex offender registry law, and had “urged the President to grant clemency for a police officer who had pled guilty to producing child pornography”.
The Republicans’ lack of unity will have repercussions—it sends a message to the current White House that it can push through even the most outrageously radical appointments to the bench. And with two of the nine Supreme Court justices now in failing health, that bodes ill for future High Court nominees.
Unless Republicans muster the courage to stand strong – and focus on persuading conscientious Democrats to join with them — they will not be able to block a single Obama judicial nominee, giving the White House carte blanche to easily stack the federal bench with radicals. And as that occurs, it will be the Senate Republicans, as well as the Democrats, who must shoulder the blame when decisions are handed down from federal judges like Hamilton restricting religious expression, protecting child predators, and turning a blind eye to the usurpations of a federal government out of control.
In a recent Rasmussen Poll, 74 percent of Republicans nationwide said GOP members of Congress are out of touch with their base that elects them. The Hamilton vote suggests the grassroots Republican dissatisfaction with their representatives will only continue to grow.