There are unconfirmed reports that IL gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka indicated earlier this spring she didn’t need conservatives to win.
Whether or not that’s true, we will likely find out, and this isn’t just whiny saber-rattling by IL conservatives.
Nationally, conservatives are showing their displeasure with an aberrant president and legislature by walking and threatening to walk.
This week, in an unprecedented move, conservative leaders boycotted a Tuesday meeting at the White House with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to discuss judicial nominees. These meetings are rare; this was the first in over a year. Typically, 60-70 attend. But this time WH and Senate staffers nearly outnumbered the 15-20 who showed.
(See Page 2 for posting of articles detailing this from The Hill and Congress Daily AM not available online.)
News watchers will not then wonder why the issue of judicial nominees suddenly rose in prominence the past few days on the GOP Senate and WH agendas.
Peggy Noonan addressed this issue on a larger scale in her piece, “Baseless confidence,” in today’s Wall Street Journal:
[T]he administration and the Congress are losing their base, and it isn’t because of the media….
The Republicans talk about cutting spending, but they increase it–a lot. They stand for making government smaller, but they keep making it bigger. They say they’re concerned about our borders, but they’re not securing them. And they seem to think we’re slobs for worrying. Republicans used to be sober and tough about foreign policy, but now they’re sort of romantic and full of emotionalism. They talk about cutting taxes, and they have, but the cuts are provisional, temporary….
What’s a voter to do? Maybe stay home, have the neighbors over for some barbecue….
Party leaders say they’re aware they’re in trouble, aware of a sense of stasis in the country. They are going to solve the problem, they say, by passing legislation. They’re going to pass a budget. And they’re going to pass an immigration bill, too. People will like that.
But no they won’t. The American people are not going to say, “I am relieved and delighted our Congress passed a budget.” They will be relieved and delighted if Congress cuts spending. They would be relieved and delighted if Congress finally took responsibility for the nation’s borders. They won’t be impressed if you just pass bills and call it progress.
Party leaders are showing a belief in process as opposed to a belief in, say, belief. But belief drives politics. It certainly drives each party’s base.
One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is… base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues. They’re trying to educate the base. But if history is a guide, the base is about to teach them a lesson instead.
Certainly the ILGOP old guard goes so far as to taunt its base as base, unsophisticated, primitive, and obsessed with its little issues. How much more should it expect a boycott, at least in the governor’s race.
The marriage amendment will bring conservatives out, but expect Judy to be snubbed, be it formally or organically driven. Social conservatives around the state tell me they physically will not be able to vote for her. Principles drive social conservatives to politics… and away.
Congress Daily AM
Conservatives Let Absence Do The Talking At Judges Meeting
By Greta Wodele
May 10, 2006
White House officials and Senate GOP leadership aides met with conservatives group Monday to outline President Bush’s plans for a looming Senate battle over judicial nominations this year, but several conservative leaders decided to boycott the gathering to show their frustration over the issue, according to sources.
Manuel Miranda, executive director of the conservative Third Branch Conference, who called for the boycott, said several conservative leaders agreed they needed to send a message to the White House and Senate GOP aides.
Miranda declined to name which conservative leaders decided not to attend the meeting, but said the gatherings typically include 60 to 70 conservative leaders. A conservative strategist who was at the meeting said it was “well-attended and upbeat,” with 15-20 conservatives at the table.
White House and Republican leadership aides have been trying to quell conservatives’ frustrations that the party is not quickly moving to nominate and approve appellate court nominees.
Although Majority Leader Frist announced last month that he would schedule a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before the Memorial Day recess, conservatives have complained that the majority leader needs to schedule more votes on other nominees.
Conservative leaders discussed the boycott in a conference call Monday morning, specifically expressing dissatisfaction with White House Counsel Harriet Miers, according to Miranda. Several conservatives accused Miers of rejecting numerous recommendations for vacancies on federal courts.
There are 43 vacancies on the federal bench, with 18 pending nominees, according to the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary’s Web site.
The conservative groups also disagreed with a recent assessment that Bush has an 87 percent success rate for confirming judges. They contend the number includes district judge nominations. On appellate court nominees, conservatives say Bush has a 71 percent confirmation rate, but if all pending nominees are confirmed it would rise to 89 percent. Compared with past administrations, Bush has been less successful, the groups contend.
This year’s debate over the hotly contested issue kicks off today when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Democrats demanded another hearing last week, citing concerns that Kavanaugh participated in Bush’s decision to allow warrantless domestic wiretapping and that he received a lower rating from the American Bar Association last month.
An ABA official said in a statement Monday that a 14-member committee downgraded its rating because new interviews with judges and associates raised concerns about Kavanaugh’s experience and objectivity. The panel changed the rating from “well-qualified” to “qualified” in April.
But the ABA official added Kavanaugh remains qualified to serve on the federal bench.
“This nominee enjoys a solid reputation for integrity, intellectual capacity and writing and analytical ability,” the statement noted.
Judiciary Chairman Specter said Monday “there’s not a whole lot of difference” between the two ratings. “That’s just a shading, and I think that in either interpretation, it comes out that he’s … a mix of qualified and well-qualified, which is pretty good,” Specter added.
May 9, 2006
Rove prepares 20 judges
By Alexander Bolton
Presidential adviser Karl Rove and White House counsel Harriet Miers yesterday told conservative activists and Senate staff that the administration would soon send the names of more than 20 judicial nominees to Capitol Hill for confirmation.
The undertaking to move ahead came at a 2:30 meeting at the White House that was boycotted by leading conservatives upset at the slow pace of nominations, according to people who attended the meeting.
Conservatives are upset by the Senate’s slow pace on judges since the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in February. They are frustrated that the White House has sent few nominees with strong conservative records.
Conservatives are also angry that Senate Republicans agreed to hold a second Judiciary Committee hearing on D.C. Circuit Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh today.
Prominent conservatives who have played instrumental roles in the battle over the federal judiciary but skipped the meeting included Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; former Attorney General Edwin Meese, chairman for the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies; and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. A representative for the Committee for Justice didn’t attend either.
Rove’s participation in the meeting could mean the White House intends to emphasize the judiciary to rev up the conservative base in the run-up to the midterm election. The judiciary, because of its power over social issues, is a leading concern of the base. Rove is likely to spend more time wooing the base since he was shifted from a policy-oriented to a purely political-strategy role last month.
During a conference call hosted by Leo earlier yesterday, one participant called for conservative leaders to skip the White House meeting because of frustration over the state of judicial nominees. The participant said that by missing the meeting conservative leaders would send a strong statement that GOP leaders needed to have a serious discussion on judicial nominees.
Manuel Miranda, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who now chairs the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative organizations, also called for a boycott during the call. He said he had about 50 participants on his call but did not know many of those who listened in.
The White House meeting was supposed to include a broad coalition of conservative activists. One participant said White House, Senate and Republican National Committee staff nearly equaled the number of conservative leaders who showed up.
But White House staff scrambled to dispel the notion of a brewing rebellion. At the meeting, Tim Goeglein, the White House liaison to conservative activists, gave a list of explanations for each prominent conservative not at the meeting. The point was to show that their absences were because of scheduling conflicts and not because of an intentional boycott. But the rarity with which such White House meetings are held seemed to undercut the explanations.
One participant said the White House could begin submitting judicial nominations to the Senate by the end of the week. Another said Rove and Miers did not give a clear timeline but indicated the nominations would come soon.
Yesterday’s meeting was scheduled to thank conservatives for their work on behalf of President Bush’s nominations to the bench, particularly Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom the Senate confirmed within the past year.
The last time White House officials held a meeting about judges with a broad array of conservative activists and leaders was the beginning of 2005, according to one activist.
The White House has nominated only four candidates among 18 vacancies on the federal appellate circuit, including two nominees to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals whom conservatives view as liberal-leaning. They are California Judge Sandra Ikuta and Milan Smith, who is the brother of Sen. Gordon Smith, a liberal-leaning Republican from Oregon. There are 56 vacancies in the federal judiciary and 33 judicial nominees pending before Congress, according to the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice.
Conservatives are also upset that Republicans have allowed the nominations of strong conservatives to languish in the Senate, despite having a 55 seat-majority in the chamber.
One controversial conservative nominee, Michigan Judge Henry Saad, withdrew his nomination earlier this year. Senate Republicans have also made clear that there is not likely to be action on 9th Circuit nominee William Myers and 4th Circuit nominee William Haynes.
Last week Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed that Democrats would filibuster Kavanaugh and 4th Circuit nominee Terrence Boyle.
Conservatives were told yesterday that Kavanaugh’s nomination could be voted on by the end of this week.