Echoing a falsehood by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Rev. Jerry Falwell and The 700 Club guest host Gordon Robertson falsely claimed that Bush judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown received high marks from the American Bar Association (ABA). In fact, Brown received the ABA's lowest "passing" rating. Robertson also claimed that "for the first time in the Senate's history the Democrats are using the filibuster rules to block judicial nominations." While it may be the first time Democrats are using the filibuster against judicial nominations, it is not a "brand new" phenomenon. Republicans first used the filibuster against a judicial nominee in 1968, attempted to filibuster three Clinton appellate court nominees, and used other parliamentary tactics to block dozens of President Clinton's judicial nominees from even getting out of committee.
On the April 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Falwell stated that Brown "is recommended highly by the ABA." On the April 25 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, Robertson said that Senate Democrats have, "singled out two existing judges -- Judge Brown from California and Judge [Priscilla] Owen from Texas -- who are already sitting on the bench, already qualified, already backed by the American Bar Association, who has labeled both of these women to be well-qualified to sit on the federal bench."
In fact, Brown twice received an "Unqualified" rating from the California judicial evaluation committee and currently has the ABA's lowest "passing" rating of Qm/NQmin (meaning a majority consider her "Qualified" and a minority consider her "Not Qualified").
The claim by Robertson, son of 700 Club host and Christian Coalition of America founder Rev. Pat Robertson, that use of the filibuster against judicial nominees is "brand new" and has "never happened before" is false. In 1968, Republicans filibustered the nomination of Associate Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice. This action was "the first filibuster in Senate history on a Supreme Court nomination," according to a "Historical Minute Essay" on the U.S. Senate website.
In addition, cloture votes were necessary to obtain floor votes on Clinton judicial nominees Richard A. Paez and Marsha L. Berzon in 2000, as the Los Angeles Times reported on November 13, 2003. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who is leading the Republican opposition to Democratic filibusters, voted against cloture for the Paez nomination. And in October 1994, Republicans attempted to filibuster the nomination of U.S. district judge H. Lee Sarokin to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Moreover, the Republican-controlled Senate prevented approximately 60 of former President Clinton's nominees from even reaching the Senate floor for consideration. And despite Democratic opposition to a handful of Bush's nominees, "confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds in most cases the first-term experience of presidents dating to Ronald Reagan," The Washington Post reported.
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
SEAN HANNITY (co-host): And I'm looking at the story of Justice Janice Brown. She's out here in California, Supreme Court justice, re-elected with 76 percent of the vote, the daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, grew up in the segregated South under Jim Crow. And Democrats won't even give this woman a vote, won't even give her a fair up-and-down.
FALWELL: It's unthinkable.
HANNITY: How does this happen in America, and then Democrats can convince people that 60 votes is fair?
FALWELL: We all talk about the American dream. This woman is the personification of the American dream. She came from nowhere to greatness. And her character -- she is recommended highly by the ABA, by the voters, by everybody. And the Democrats will not have her because they fear she might have some moral values that are not shared by them, one of them being the preciousness of human life. I think it's a tragedy.
From the April 25 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:
ROBERTSON: What this debate has to be is, if you are a conservative, if you are a Christian, if you think that there is a right to life, that there is a constitutional protection, that the Constitution wants to protect people's lives, and if you actually think that, according to the Democrats that makes you radical and that makes you out of the of the mainstream. They've used both of those phrases, if you will, to describe President Bush's judicial nominees.
And they've particularly singled out two existing judges -- Judge Brown from California and Judge Owen from Texas -- who are already sitting on the bench, already qualified, already backed by the American Bar Association who has labeled both of these women to be well-qualified to sit on the federal bench. But the U.S. Senate -- the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are saying, "Well, they're radical, they're out of the mainstream because of their views on right-to-life -- because of their views on abortion and a variety of other issues.
And so, because of that, it is now gotten into this incredible rancor where for the first time in the Senate's history the Democrats are using the filibuster rules to block judicial nominations. This is brand new, it's never happened before, and as a result the Republicans are looking at various options in order to stop the abuse of the filibuster.