WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday became the first Democratic senator to say he can't support President Barack Obama's judicial nominee Michael Boggs, who has drawn criticism from progressive groups for his record on gay rights, abortion and civil rights.
"Unless I have a better explanation, I can’t vote for him," Reid said in an interview with BuzzFeed. "This is a lifetime appointment. He's said some things and made some decisions I think are not very good.”
The fact that the top Democrat in the Senate is publicly opposed to Boggs is a huge blow to the White House, which is trying to usher its nominee's confirmation through the Senate. Boggs, who is up for a lifetime post on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, has come under fire from Democrats for votes he took as a Georgia state legislator. Among other things, he voted to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, to keep the Confederate insignia on the state flag and to pass a measure requiring that information be posted online about the number of abortions performed by individual doctors.
Boggs had his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday and took a beating from Democrats.
The White House is backing Boggs because he's part of an all-or-nothing package of six judicial nominees that the president agreed to with Georgia's Republican senators. The White House maintains it had to compromise on Boggs to get other nominees backed by Democrats into the package. The tradeoff is that long-empty seats can get filled.
Reid left the door open to changing his mind on Boggs, if he gets "some explanations on why he did that deal with the rebel flag and things he's said about abortion." He told BuzzFeed he hasn't spoken to the White House yet about his objections, and said he plans to talk to "my man" Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) about Boggs. Lewis is a civil rights icon and someone who has been vocal in his opposition to Boggs.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier Wednesday that while the president continues to back Boggs, he supports Senate Democrats voting their conscience on his confirmation.
"The president of course believes that each senator should vote as he or she sees fit," Carney said in his daily briefing.
UPDATE: 5:13 p.m. -- Reid isn't the only Senate Democratic leader to raise red flags about Boggs. An aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who is vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, told The Huffington Post that he sees "significant" problems with Obama's nominee.
"He is still reviewing the nomination and while he has not made a decision, he has significant concerns," the Schumer aide said.