The Washington Post

Harry Reid opposes Obama judicial pick Michael Boggs

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) responds to a reporter's question during a news conference on April 29. (EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS)

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he is opposed to one of President Obama's nominees to serve on a federal court in Georgia, a stance that could torpedo the nomination and complicate the White House's plans to quickly confirm dozens of judicial picks before election season begins in earnest.

Reid told reporters Wednesday that he will not support the nomination of Michael Boggs to serve on the federal district court for the northern district of Georgia, saying that he has doubts about Boggs's previous comments and votes on issues related to abortion rights, civil rights and gay rights.

He has served as a state appeals court judge since 2012 and previously was a state superior court judge. But as a state senator from 2000 to 2004, Boggs, a conservative Democrat, supported keeping the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag; supported establishing a "Choose Life" license plate that helped fund anti-abortion groups; opposed same-sex marriage; and supported a measure that would require parents to accompany their daughters to abortion clinics if the daughter is younger than 18.

“Unless I have a better explanation. I can’t vote for him. This is a lifetime appointment. He’s said some things and made some decisions I think are not very good," Reid told BuzzFeed. He added that he had not yet conveyed his thoughts to the White House.

Reid first signaled doubts about Boggs on Tuesday when he voiced support for David L. Barron, another judicial pick opposed by some Democrats and Republicans because of his involvement in formulating the legal reasoning to justify unmanned aerial drone strikes on Americans overseas. Reid said he would back Barron, but said he would withhold judgment of Boggs.

Boggs and other nominees to sit on federal courts in Georgia testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but only Boggs faced sharp, detailed questioning from senators of both parties.

Several Democratic senators quizzed Boggs on his support as a Georgia lawmaker for a proposal that would have disclosed the number of abortions performed by doctors. Critics of the proposal said such a list would have endangered the lives of abortion providers.

"In light of what I subsequently learned, I don't think it would be appropriate to" support the proposal, Boggs said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) also pressed Boggs to explain his support for a new state flag that would preserve elements of the Confederate flag. Boggs said that while he was personally "offended" by the flag, he knew that the "overwhelming majority" of his constituents wanted to hold a referendum on whether to change the flag's design.

"One of the most challenging things of being a legislator was deciding when to vote the will of my constituents and when to vote the will of myself," Boggs told Durbin, adding later: "I struggled with it regularly."

Ultimately, Boggs said, "I’m glad the flag was changed."

Reid's announcement comes as the Senate is scheduled to confirm three more federal district court judges later Wednesday. The Senate has confirmed dozens of judicial picks in recent weeks amid ongoing stalemate over legislation. Obama's picks are being confirmed at a level nearly on par with George W. Bush at this point in his presidency. But dozens of vacancies remain across the federal court system.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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