POLITICS
07/17/2014 07:06 pm ET | Updated Jul 18, 2014

Chuck Schumer Announces Opposition To Embattled Judicial Nominee Michael Boggs

DETROIT -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that he will vote against President Barack Obama's controversial judicial nominee Michael Boggs if he comes up for a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

"I've thought about it long and hard, and I'm going to vote against him," Schumer, who sits on the committee, said in an interview with The Huffington Post Thursday. Schumer was in Detroit to give a speech on immigration at the progressive Netroots Nation conference.

Boggs, who is up for a lifetime post on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, has been under attack for months from progressive groups and Democratic lawmakers over his socially conservative track record as a former Georgia state legislator. Among other issues, he voted to ban same-sex marriage, to keep the Confederate insignia on the Georgia flag and to require doctors to post online their personal information and the number of abortions they performed.

When asked why he is opposing Boggs, Schumer replied, "First, his stand on choice. But second, even though it was in his past, to do what he did with the Confederate flag -- and the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery, it's a symbol of oppression -- I don't think someone should be on the federal bench who did that, even though he knows it might be a mistake. Those two reasons are enough for me to say no, so I'm going to vote no."

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) are the only other Judiciary Committee members who have publicly stated that they plan to oppose Boggs if he comes up for a vote there.

Schumer said he expected a vote in the coming weeks. But it's unclear when, or even if, Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will allow one. If he does, it likely won't be until at least September, given time constraints before senators leave for their month-long August recess.

If Boggs does make it out of committee, he won't necessarily have the votes to pass on the Senate floor. At least half a dozen Democrats have already said they can't support Boggs based on his record, and others have said they have serious concerns.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confirmed to HuffPost last week that he would bring up Boggs’ nomination for a vote if he makes it to the floor. But he emphasized he wouldn't be among those supporting him.

"If he comes to the floor, I won't vote for him," he said.

Last fall, Senate Democrats nixed the filibuster for executive and judicial nominees, meaning that these individuals now just need a simple majority of the chamber to be confirmed. Schumer said he believes this rule has been "very good," but it could also mean that Boggs gets through the Senate.

"We hope it doesn't backfire on us on Boggs, because he has a lower threshold. ... If you have 45 Republicans, you'd need only six Democrats to vote for him," he said.

Boggs was part of a package of seven Georgia judicial nominees that President Barack Obama approved last year with Georgia’s Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. While the idea was for both Democrats and Republicans to have their own chosen nominees in the mix, Democrats have had a hard time swallowing Boggs, a GOP pick. Leahy already separated out Boggs from the rest of the group and advanced them without him.

Schumer said he initially was under the impression that civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) supported Boggs, which made him hesitant to oppose him. But after talking to Lewis and learning that he did not back him, Schumer decided to vote against Boggs.

"That was the only reason I hesitated," said Schumer.

Chambliss said he knows Boggs has drawn opposition, but he’s not giving up trying to get him confirmed.

“Oh he’s still supported by me,” he said recently.

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