Rubio under fire for holding up black judicial nominees
WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio is holding up the confirmations of two African-American judicial candidates, drawing fire from the Congressional Black Caucus, which plans a Wednesday press conference and blames the lawmaker's "negligence and obstruction."
The candidates are Brian Davis, for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District, whom Rubio glowingly introduced at his confirmation hearing, and William L. Thomas, for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District, who is openly gay.
Both made it through Florida's Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, a well-respected panel that make recommendations to the state's senators. Both were nominated by President Barack Obama.
Rubio's office did not answer questions from the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday evening, referring to comments made by a spokesman earlier.
“Several Republican senators have expressed concerns with his nomination,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told the Florida Times-Union in June regarding Davis. “So we’re doing our due diligence and reviewing his nomination before proceeding."
The complaints mainly came from Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who raised questions about statements Davis made in the past. According to the Times-Union, in a 1994 speech Davis suggested Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign as U.S. surgeon general because she is black. In a 1995 speech he suggested that Henry W. Foster Jr. was filibustered as Elders’ successor because he was black.
Davis is “viewing the world through a lens that I think is inappropriate and unacceptable for a federal court judge," Grassley said. Davis said he made the comments in the context of a speech about race, but acknowledged they were inappropriate for a judge.
In May 2012, Rubio glowed about Davis and another nominee during a Senate Judiciary Hearing. "One of the pleasant surprises of this job is the quality of individuals who offer themselves for public service, and the quality of individuals who we've been able to forward to the president, to the White House, today being no exception," he said.
As for Thomas, it's unclear what Rubio's objections are.
On Wednesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will hold an 11 a.m. news conference to discuss what it says is the "obstruction of African American judicial confirmations by Republican Senators."
In a statement, the group said, "Currently, 30 percent of judicial nominees pending confirmation in the Senate are African American. CBC Members will highlight African American judicial nominees in Florida whose confirmations have been stalled due to negligence and obstruction by Senator Marco Rubio."
Three Florida House members will participate: Reps. Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, and Frederica Wilson of Miami.
Sen. Bill Nelson's office did not respond to questions Tuesday evening.