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December 19, 2006
Early Setback For Brownback

In an attempt to set himself apart from the GOP field in the upcoming Presidential race, Brownback put a hold on a judicial nomination for her attendance at a same-sex union ceremony. However, Brownback overreached when he demanded that Janet Neff recuse herself from all cases regarding gender-neutral marriage issues:

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who blocked the confirmation of a woman to the federal bench because she attended a same-sex commitment ceremony for the daughter of her long-time neighbors, says he will now allow a vote on the nomination.

Mr. Brownback, a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said in a recent interview that when the Senate returned in January, he would allow a vote on Janet Neff, a 61-year-old Michigan state judge, who was nominated to a Federal District Court seat.

Mr. Brownback, who has been criticized for blocking the nomination, said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.

In an interview last week, Mr. Brownback said that he still believed Judge Neff’s behavior raised serious questions about her impartiality and that he was likely to vote against her. But he said he did not realize his proposal — asking a nominee to agree in advance to remove herself from deciding a whole category of cases — was so unusual as to be possibly unprecedented. Legal scholars said it raised constitutional questions of separation of powers for a senator to demand that a judge commit to behavior on the bench in exchange for a vote.

Well, it's not just unprecedented, it's ridiculous. Can you imagine the outrage had Ted Kennedy demanded that Samuel Alito recuse himself on all cases involving abortion? How about if Pat Leahy insisted that Janice Rogers Brown recuse herself on all affirmative-action cases? Conservatives would have had fits -- and rightly so.

Neff's attendance at a private function on her own time has no bearing on her fitness to the bench. A union ceremony breaks no laws and infringes on no one's rights. It involves two people celebrating their relationship without demanding any recognition from the government or special rights as a result. The two women invited family and friends to attend, and Neff decided to support her friend and help her celebrate a ceremony that would have taken place regardless.

No one expects Brownback to attend such an event. However, whether he did or not would have no bearing on his fitness for office. Unfortunately, even while allowing the vote to proceed, Brownback still demonstrates that he doesn't get it. He claims that Neff's attendance at this event merits an investigation as he would "like to know more factually about what took place." Since nothing illegal took place and Neff did not do anything in her capacity as a judge at the ceremony, it's none of Brownback's business what "took place" there.

I understand that recognition of marriages is a public policy and that the electorate should make that decision. However, that does not give the government any right to interfere or investigate relationships between consenting, non-related adults. The government does not belong in the bedroom, and the Senate has no business extracting pledges of recusals from judicial nominees for any reason. If Brownback doesn't understand these two concepts, then he has no business anywhere near the White House.

UPDATE: I'm not surprised that Glenn agrees with me on this.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2006 5:06 AM

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» The Brownback Block from PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts
Via the NYT, Senator Removes His Block on Federal Court Nominee - New York Times: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who blocked the confirmation of a woman to the federal bench because she attended a same-sex commitment ceremony for the daughter of her ... [Read More]

Tracked on December 19, 2006 8:15 AM

» Brownback's Position Excessive On Judicial Nominee from Scottish Right
Ed Morrissey calls out Kansas Senator and prospective presidential candidate Sam Brownback for a a little bit of judicial overreach. Brownback had been holding up a judicial nominee because the nominee had attended a same-sex union ceremony. [Read More]

Tracked on December 19, 2006 10:48 AM


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