Bush’s Court: How the DC Circuit Threatens the Future of Progressive Reform (Updated)

— by Layne Amerikaner & Miranda Blue, PFAW, media@pfaw.org, (202) 467-4999

WASHINGTON – Four years into President Obama’s presidency, he has yet to  have a single judge confirmed to the hugely influential Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This lapse, caused initially by a slow start from the administration but perpetuated by a blockade of obstruction in the Senate, threatens to hinder progressive advances for years to come, argues a newreport from People For the American Way.

The report, AMERICA’S PROGRESS AT RISK: RESTORING BALANCE TO THE DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, can be found here.

“The D.C. Circuit is the most important court most Americans have never heard of,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “The D.C. Circuit’s judges have the final word on scores of federal laws each year, from air pollution controls to financial regulations to workers’ rights. Republicans have long understood this, and have packed the court with far-right ideologues who threaten to hold back American progress for decades to come.  And they have so far blocked confirmation of judges who would bring any balance to this court.”

President Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to fail to have a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit during his first full term in office, despite the fact that four of the eleven seats on the court are now vacant. His first nominee to the court, the indisputably qualified Caitlin Halligan, was twice blocked by Senate Republicans for reasons widely recognized as spurious.

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As a result, the D.C. Circuit continues to be dominated by judges pushing a right-wing ideology long rejected by the American people. The right-wing majority of the D.C. Circuit has continuously sought to dismantle progressive efforts to defend consumers, protect public health, and ensure the rights of workers. Recent D.C. Circuit decisions highlighted in the report include:

  • Noel Canning v. NLRB:  In January, the D.C. Circuit invalidated three presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, undermining the Board’s ability to protect the rights of workers and giving the green light to Senate Republicans who wish to decimate any federal agency by blocking appointees.
  • EME Homer City Generation v. EPA: In 2012, the D.C. Circuit sided with utility companies to strike down EPA air pollution regulations that would have prevented an estimated 34,000 premature deaths and saved $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.
  • Business Roundtable v. SEC: In 2011, the D.C. Circuit overturned an SEC rule requiring greater accountability from corporations to their shareholders in selecting board members. One observer noted that in doing so the judges – none of them securities experts – had “waded into a political fight under the guise of dispassionate scientific oversight.”
  • RJ Reynolds Tobacco v. FDA: Last year, the D.C. Circuit ruled that FDA regulations requiring cigarette manufacturers to place graphic, factually accurate warnings on their product violated tobacco companies’ First Amendment free speech rights.
  • Hein Hettinga v. USA: George W. Bush nominee Janice Rogers Brown used a case about milk market regulation last year to issue a call to arms against eight decades of progressive reforms. Courts that have allowed the government to implement reasonable regulations of industry have, she said, put “property…at the mercy of pillagers.”
  • “President Obama has a chance in his second term to restore ideological balance to the D.C. Circuit,” added Marge Baker. “It is critically important that he do so.

Otherwise, D.C. Circuit will continue to stand in the way of progressive reforms — reforms chosen by American voters — and threaten to roll back decades of hard-won protections for working people and consumers.”


On a side note, I called Senator Dean Heller’s office and asked for a specific answer as exactly why he voted in favor of filibustering the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan.  Once again, I got a blow-off standard “well as you know” non-specific answer (Click on the graphic at the left to read the response).  I made a second call complaining that I had asked a specific question and expected to receive a specific response.  Ten-to-one, I get another ‘doesn’t say crap’ letter or nothing at all.


March 22, 2013: The White House officially withdrew President Barack Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  In a statement, Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” that a minority of senators had blocked Halligan’s nomination for almost two and a half years, and called the vacancies on what is arguably the country’s second-highest federal court “unacceptable.”

“Today, I accepted Caitlin Halligan’s request to withdraw as a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,” Obama said in an emailed statement. “This unjustified filibuster obstructed the majority of Senators from expressing their support. I am confident that with Caitlin’s impressive qualifications and reputation, she would have served with distinction.”

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Finally Confirmed: GOP ‘IS’ Out of Touch

GOP Report Shows Party is Out of Touch With Americans on Threats to Democracy: Money in Politics and Voter Suppression

The Republican National Committee released a report today reviewing its losses in the 2012 election cycle and laying out a roadmap for the future of the party.  People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“This report highlights what we already knew: that the Republican party is out of touch with America. Instead of addressing the party’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-worker policies that voters resoundingly rejected in 2012, today’s report calls for a complete gutting of campaign finance reform – in essence calling for even more big money to be poured into our elections.  If the Republican party were listening to Americans, they would know that the country supports finding systemic solutions to the problem of unregulated money in our political system.  The answer is certainly not to gut the regulations we already have in place.  Instead, we need to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases so that we can create more effective regulations to get big money out of our democracy.

“The GOP report’s recommendations on voting rights also underscore a continuing focus on keeping certain voters from the polls.  After an election cycle overflowing with examples of discriminatory voter suppression efforts aimed at historically disenfranchised communities, the report recommends an ongoing focus on so-called  ‘ballot security training initiatives.’  This is simply another phrase for the same voter intimidation tactics used in the name of preventing supposed ‘voter fraud.’  It’s baffling that the GOP thinks it can improve its image with people of color while still working to block their access to the ballot box.

“This report is yet another example that the GOP’s ‘soul-searching’ hasn’t gotten them very far.  It’s time to refocus our efforts on getting the big money out of elections and the voters into the voting booth.”

Ready to go?

Just exactly how much lipstick have they purchased?  Maybeline and Revlon combined couldn’t make enough lipstick to take care of that pachyderm.

Yesterday— the Republican National Committee released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report called the “Growth And Opportunity Project Report.” In it, the party admits to several shortcomings that contributed to the party’s wide losses in the 2012 election. A portion of the report includes market research from voter focus groups around the country. Not surprisingly, when asked to describe Republicans, respondents said that the party was “scary,” “narrow-minded,” “out of touch,” and full of “stuffy old men.”  What’s most interesting is that the report failed to quantify just how out of touch their party has become on a number of issues, from climate change, to marriage equality, to universal background checks, to women’s rights, to the minimum wage, and more.

The GOP thinks they merely have a messaging problem … and just need to change a few words they used to talk about things.  HAH! Now that’s a joke and a half.  Maybe they should look at their 2012 Platform. Better yet, maybe they should look at what is happening in State Legislatures and what members of their party have introduced in the Congress:

  • Restricting access to or insurance reimbursement of costs associated with an abortion;
  • Restricting time frames in which a woman could seek an abortion to 12-weeks and in on case, to 6-weeks from conception;
  • Mandating the use of transvaginal ultrasounds and other medically unnecessary procedures as a means to shame women;
  • Gleefully and gloatingly defunding Planned Parenthood;
  • Attempting to elevate “religious” rights above all others to allow zealots to assert their religious rights to deny all types of service and/or medications should it offend “their” personal religious beliefs, making their beliefs superior to yours;
  • Continually attempting to repeal Obamacare and providing NO replacement;
  • Promoting continued systemic discrimination against the LGBT community, as a whole, via marriage inequality espoused throughout our Nation’s income tax and estate tax structures;
  • Attempting to enact one voter suppression tactic after another to disenfranchise voters as well as restricting early voting opportunities;
  • Continually filibustering one bill after another, even those introduced by Republicans;
  • Blocking Consumer Financial Protection and making multiple attempts to repeal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform;
  • Promoting racial profiling as a means of harassment to convince Hispanics to “self-deport’ ;
  • Promoting Personhood for embryos and essentially demoting women’s status to nothing more than an incubator;
  • Replacing Democracy with Dictatorships (Overseers);
  • Promoting fatherhood visitation rights for rapists.

I’m sure I’ve missed of few other big issues we’ve had to overcome … but need I go on?  There’s a politically incorrect term we frequently used when I was in the Navy to define that kind of behavior.  The term stars with “cluster.”  The GOPs (Grouchy Old Patriarchs) problem is much more than a “messaging” problem.  It’s a policy problem and we should cheer them on  in pursuit of their messaging delusion.  It will most certainly shorten their path to minor party status.  We may have a few challenges to overcome in the short run, but we’ll all be much better off in the long run.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself,  take your pick, click a pic or two.  Read/compare a few — then compare the numbers.

2012-GOP-Platform GOP Growth Opportunity Rpt 2009-GOP-Road-to-Recovery 2010-GOP-Better-Solutions
GOP 2012 Platform GOP Growth Opportunites 2009 Path to Recovery 2010-Better Solutions
2010-Pledge-to-America Path to Poverty v1.0 Path to Poverty v2.0 Path to Poverty v3.0
2010-Pledge to America P2P v1.0 P2P v2.0 P2P v3.0

PFAW Report: The Radical Right and the Challenge of Gun Violence Prevention

— by Layne Amerikaner | Miranda Blue, 202-467-4999 / media@pfaw.org

People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch released a report today chronicling the history and strategies of the radical groups and individuals who are working to prevent meaningful gun violence reform. While most Americans, including most gun owners, support common-sense gun violence prevention efforts, a small but vocal group of extremists has so far succeeded in blocking any attempt at meaningful reform.

The report, The Lobby Against Common Sense: The Right’s Campaign Against Gun Violence Reform and How We Can Defeat It, is available at www.pfaw.org.

“We cannot address the plague of gun violence in our country until we are able to have a reasonable debate about reforming our gun laws,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Unfortunately, for too many years this debate has been dominated by an extreme and vocal fringe. These extremists equate gun violence prevention with ‘tyranny’;  blame mass shootings on everything and everybody but lax gun safety laws; and push conspiracy theories about government confiscations of firearms.

“Stunningly, these extremists say that the real ‘radicals’ are Americans who support reforms to rein in the horror and devastation of gun violence. While these groups claim to represent American gun owners, they are in fact far out of step with most Americans, gun owners included. We hope that this report will help elected officials and voters understand the truth behind the forces that are trying to drag down meaningful gun violence reform.”


People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch monitors and exposes the activities of right-wing movements in the United States.

We Can’t Let Romney & his Republiban Brethren Control Washington

by Michael Keegan, President, People for the American Way

Mitt Romney, now with the presidential nomination locked up, is pivoting hard towards the political center and away from the “severely conservative” positions he so gleefully promoted during his primary fight. He’ll say anything to get elected, but under the surface, he’s still the embodiment of the Radical Right’s agenda to dismantle the institutions protecting Americans rights, safety and health, undo the social safety net, and lavish the 1% with endless tax giveaways at the expense of working families.

RomneyCourt.com: Don’t Let Mitt Romney Bork America — Last week, PFAW launched RomneyCourt.com, our campaign to educate voters about perhaps the #1 reason to oppose the election of Mitt Romney — what he would mean for the Supreme Court. The first phase of the campaign, complete with a video and a report by PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, focuses on Romney’s selection of Robert Bork as his legal and judicial advisor — yes, that Robert Bork.  Jamie appeared on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss the report. Romney’s selection of Bork has been central to his successful wooing of the Religious Right with promises of right-wing judges. Just yesterday, a major Religious Right radio broadcast addressed why far-right conservatives should support Romney: he’ll nominate like-minded judges, including Supreme Court justices.

Ditch ALEC — The work continues to dislodge corporate support from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with more major victories to report. Proctor & Gamble just announced that it will join companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Mars, Inc., McDonald’s, Wendy’s and others in cutting off its support to ALEC. Our petition to ALEC member companies now has nearly 100,000 signatures and PFAW activists have been calling companies like State Farm and Johnson & Johnson — Proctor & Gamble’s biggest competitor — to keep the pressure up. We know these companies are counting the calls and taking note, but they’re not the only ones. State legislators are also starting to withdraw from ALEC and the media is giving this effort a lot of well-deserved coverage. ALEC is on the defensive — they’ve made moves to back away from their support of voter suppression laws and “stand your ground” laws like the one in Florida implicated in the Trayvon Martin shooting. But their anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment agenda is still something that no company with popular consumer brands should want to be associated with, and with your help, we’ll keep this momentum going.

Wisconsin Recall — PFAW has ramped up our efforts to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, his right-wing cronies in the State Senate AND his radical Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (think Wisconsin’s answer to Michele Bachmann). Scott Walker is rumored to be the subject of an investigation which could, possibly, lead to his eventual indictment. If he wins and survives the recall election on June 5 but then is forced to leave office either due to the weight of a scandal or a criminal conviction, the Lieutenant Governor would take over as Governor meaning THAT is a race we have to win as well. Running against Kleefisch on the Democratic side is the Wisconsin firefighter, Mahlon Mitchell, one of the leaders of the fight against Governor Walker’s union busting campaign. We’ll need to stay firing on all cylinders from now until June 5, as polling shows that months of TV ad blitzes, funded by the Koch brothers and other right-wing interests, have succeeded in boosting Walker’s approval levels.

Overturning Citizens UnitedLast Wednesday, PFAW joined members of Congress, state and local officials, advocacy organizations and concerned citizens for a Capitol Hill summit to amplify the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in unprecedented levels of corporate and Super PAC spending to influence our elections. The speakers recounted the toll that Citizens United has taken on our democracy, as their colleagues must contend with the outsized influence that wealthy special interests hold over the political system, and how it is absolutely imperative for Congress to have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and require disclosure. While there are many approaches under consideration, it was clear to all that amending the Constitution is a necessary step to restore our democracy. Read more and check out video from the event here.

Extremism Spotlight — Longtime NRA board member Ted Nugent, who endorsed Romney in early March, has been getting some heat for extreme remarks he made attacking President Obama and Supreme Court justices at the NRA’s recent convention. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch first broke the story and was successful in calling attention to Nugent’s endorsement of Mitt Romney — which was actively sought by Romney — both in online and offline media. Nugent denounced the “vile, evil, America-hating” Obama administration. He finished his remarks with a call to cut off the heads of Democrats this fall: “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”

We don’t expect moderation from Ted Nugent, but we do expect a major presidential candidate like Mitt Romney to rebuke a prominent supporter for spewing hate-filled and violent rhetoric against the President of the United States. This is far from the first time that Nugent has advocated violence against his political adversaries. Mitt Romney should clearly and loudly reject Nugent’s endorsement and rebuke his inflammatory comments — something he has proven unwilling to do.

There’s plenty more going on in this crazy election year. Visit www.PFAW.org often for the latest on our work and our ongoing in-depth coverage of the Far Right. Thank you, as always, for your indispensable support.