Throughout the first half of 2013, three major national print outlets mostly reported figures on debt, deficits, spending, and revenue in terms of raw numbers devoid of relevant context, such as previous years' numbers or monthly figures, that would give readers a more accurate depiction of the economy.
With a deal apparently sealed in the Senate that will end successful Republican filibusters on current presidential nominees to the executive branch, The Wall Street Journal revealed that its previous attacks on the proposed appointments were just an excuse to rail against long-standing progressive law.
The WSJ was an eager participant in right-wing media's attempt to bolster the GOP refusal to allow simple majority votes on President Obama's executive branch nominees. In particular, the editorial board was obsessed with smearing Thomas Perez, Labor Secretary nominee, and explicitly called upon Republicans to filibuster this cabinet pick.
In addition to calling him "tainted" because his performance as head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division was purportedly "shady," a "flagrant abuse of his legal powers," "unacceptable in any government official," and part of a career of "bend[ing] the law to his ideological purposes," the WSJ also argued that the Republican opposition to him was "tepid" only because "[t]hey don't want to be seen opposing someone with a Spanish surname." On the eve of the bipartisan deal that finally curtailed the filibusters on seven nominees, the WSJ's last-ditch attempt to egg on continued GOP opposition to Perez was a reference to supposed "disdain" he has for the House Oversight Committee under Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Now that a vote and confirmation seems assured, however, the WSJ's latest discussion of Perez is notable for the lack of the baseless attacks on his qualifications and character that were frequent in previous editorials. Instead, the WSJ confirms that their opposition was always to effective and long-standing civil rights law that recognizes discrimination can be illegal not only in intent but also because of its impact.
Dropping its villainous characterization of Perez, the WSJ now makes clear that what it really hates is the fact that multiple banks have been punished for predatory lending and other racially discriminatory behavior under civil rights precedent, which even its own editors admit is recognized by all 11 appellate courts. From the July 16 editorial page:
The courts are the last line of defense against the Obama Administration's regulatory onslaught, and the latest legal challenge comes from the insurance industry. The home insurers sued late last month to overturn the Department of Housing and Urban Development's new rule using disparate-impact theory to prove housing discrimination.
Disparate impact lets regulators charge discrimination merely by showing that some racial or ethnic groups received fewer housing loans than other groups. There's no need to show intent to discriminate or even prove racial bias in a specific case. In practice, this means lenders and insurers must impose de facto racial quotas or risk costly lawsuits.
HUD rolled out the new rule in February to rubber-stamp Thomas Perez's campaign at the Justice Department to accuse banks of racism before the Supreme Court could rule on disparate impact's legality in a pending case.
Meanwhile, we reported last month that the Supreme Court agreed to hear a disparate-impact housing case, Township of Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens. But we now hear the parties are in settlement talks, which no doubt thrills HUD and Mr. Perez.
Despite the right-wing media's most recent attempt to generate a "Watergate" style scandal imploding on live TV, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan continued to push the conspiracy theory that a recent break-in at a Texas law firm was orchestrated by the government in response to a whistleblower's allegations of misconduct among State Department employees.
Following June 29 and June 30 robberies at the Dallas office of Schulman & Mathias, lawyer Cary Schulman has suggested that State Department officials were responsible for the break-in. Schulman & Mathias represents a former investigator at the State Department's Office of the Inspector General named Aurelia Fedenisn, who provided documents to CBS News alleging misconduct among State Department employees.
In a July 9 Wall Street Journal blog post, Noonan baselessly speculated that the government was behind the break-in at Schulman's law firm, comparing the break-in to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s that resulted in the impeachment proceedings -- and ultimately resignation -- of President Richard Nixon. Noonan wrote:
Still, the Nixon-era whistleblower whose psychiatrist's office was broken into has some tough words, in an op-ed piece, for the current administration -- just as word comes that an Obama-era whistleblower's lawyer's office was broken into by . . . someone.
Just hours before Noonan's post was published, Schulman appeared on Fox News' America Live with guest host Martha MacCallum in a segment hyped as "'Watergate' Style Spy Claims." Schulman said that one reason to suspect State Department involvement in the burglary was because the perpetrators "have been unwilling to come forward with evidence of the crimes voluntarily and we don't know their whereabouts." When asked by MacCallum if he had any evidence to support these allegations, Schulman was forced to admit, "No I don't. All kidding aside, I was joking earlier. I don't know who did it."
The admission by Schulman that he has no evidence and was only "joking" about State Department involvement in the burglary did not stop Noonan from speculating that the government was somehow involved. Noonan concluded, "The burglary may or may not be a scandal -- but if it is, it's a big one."
Fox News and The Wall Street Journal stoked fears that a delay in the verification systems of health care reform would lead to fraud, while ignoring the fact that the government will conduct audits before implementing a stronger verification system and will heavily fine individuals who misrepresent their eligibility.
The Washington Post reported on July 5 that until 2015, the federal government will not require 16 states and the District of Columbia -- which are running their own health insurance marketplaces -- to verify whether an individual accurately reported that they currently do not receive affordable health insurance from their employer and are eligible for health care benefits under the new law. These benefits include tax subsidies for Americans who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line and some additional Medicaid coverage.
On the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the government "is not going to be able to verify whether or not you have the right income standards so they're going to trust people. What could possibly go wrong?" Fox News host Bret Baier, who was a guest on the program, further claimed the government was "not going to check to see if anybody qualifies to receive benefits" and suggested the move would lead to misspent funds, saying "you could see taxpayer dollars going out the window." Co-host Gretchen Carlson agreed the program would be "rife with fraud," while Doocy suggested this system would result in "a quarter of a trillion dollars" of fraud:
DOOCY: If you're just going to trust people to tell the truth, how is that going to work out when it comes to fraudsters if you look at the Earned Income Tax Credits. Right now, they say that about 25 percent of the people who get them don't deserve them. They should not be applying for them. But they get them. So if you use that same metric, you could probably lose, over 10 years, a quarter of a trillion dollars to fraud on this program.
The claim that this delay could result in fraudulent spending echoed a July 7 Wall Street Journal editorial, which claimed that "millions of individuals [could] decide they're eligible for the subsidies," resulting in "as much as $250 billion in improper payments in its first decade."
A Wall Street Journal news article stoked fears that immigration reform would lead to an increase in unemployment, while ignoring the Congressional Budget Office's assessment that in the long-term there will be no effect on the employment rate.
A July 2 Journal article relied on man-on-the-street interviews and opinion polling to hype the fears of some Democratic voters that immigration reform could "squeeze the wages and jobs of native-born workers." Though the article cited a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who explained that immigration makes it easier for companies to hire U.S. workers, the article ignored a CBO report which found that immigration reform will have no long-term effect on unemployment and wages.
In fact, according to the CBO report, while enacting the immigration reform bill would cause a temporary increase of 0.1 percent in unemployment over the next five years because of the expanding workforce, there would be little effect in the long-term and "no effect on the unemployment rate after 2020." From the report:
In the long run, the actual unemployment rate in the economy tends to be close to its natural rate. The natural rate of unemployment of the additional immigrants would be comparable, on average, to that of the current population, CBO expects, so there would be little effect on the unemployment rate in the long run. Thus, in the long run, the number of employed people would increase by the same percentage as the growth in the labor force--by about 3½ percent in 2023 and by about 5 percent in 2033, CBO estimates.
Furthermore, the CBO found that average wages would increase by 2033, and that over the long term immigration reform would boost capital investment and raise productivity of labor and capital.
The Journal itself has previously acknowledged the economic benefits of immigration reform. Indeed a June 20 Journal editorial noted that the CBO report found the proposed legislation was "pro-growth" and would result in rising standards of living, higher wages, and increased productivity:
CBO also sensibly notes that newcomers to the U.S. tend to belong to either the least- or most-skilled groups of workers, so any harm for most average Americans is nonexistent. In fact they will benefit from rising standards of living and higher wages that faster growth makes possible.
New workers with lower skills or less education like farm hands or bar backs fill gaps in the U.S. labor market and will see their earnings rise over time. Let's also not forget that the Senate bill greatly increases H-1B visa quotas and green cards for tech and science grads, so the U.S. will see an influx of the engineers, Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs who generate the innovations that increase economic output faster. The CBO cites the large body of empirical literature on such "positive spillover effects" as a major reason productivity will rise.
A study of wildfire coverage from April through July 1 finds that print and TV media only mentioned climate change in 6 percent of coverage, although this was double the amount of coverage from a year ago. While many factors must come together for wildfires to occur, climate change has led to hotter and drier conditions in parts of the West that have increased the risk of wildfires.
Right-wing media applauded the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Voting Rights Act, which Congress overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize in 2006 then decried the Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
In its June 25 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the conservative bloc of the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which Congress has repeatedly reauthorized and which the Court has upheld several times.
Right-wing media applauded the ruling. The Wall Street Journal said the Court "marked a milestone worth celebrating when it ruled that a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has outlived its usefulness," and praised the ruling as "a triumph of racial progress and corrective politics."
Blithely ignoring the fact that in 2006, based on 12,000 pages of testimony, the House voted 390-33 and the Senate voted 98-0 to reauthorize the VRA, the WSJ agreed with the Shelby majority's conclusion that racial progress obviated the need for the Voting Rights Act. From the WSJ editorial:
The High Court previously described all of this progress in a 2009 case, but in the habit of this restrained Roberts Court stopped short of overturning Section 4 and invited Congress to revise its formula. Congress ignored that warning, and this time the Court followed through on its constitutional logic and ordered Congress to rewrite its preclearance formula to reflect current reality.
The Washington Times editorial board called the decision "a good day's work by the Supreme Court" and approved the Court's second-guessing Congress:
All states are equal before the Constitution, but Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act set out a formula for determining that some states are less equal than others, and should be treated as wards of the federal government -- and all changes in voting law, no matter how minor, be "preapproved" by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The wrong that this law was intended to prevent -- the preservation of Jim Crow laws designed to disenfranchise blacks -- no longer exists. "The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years," Chief Justice Roberts observed.
Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt opined that the Voting Rights Act is an "abomination of justice" that required "everyone be discriminated against based on the color of their skin."
These outlets changed their tune when, on June 26, the Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which Congress enacted in 1996, unconstitutionally discriminated against legally-married same-sex couples.
The WSJ editorial board showed more deference to Congress's judgment on Section 3 of DOMA than it accorded the VRA, and said the Court used a "confusing combination of logic" for overturning DOMA:
Our view is that Doma was an understandable political response at the time to state court rulings on gay marriage, and adopting a uniform federal rule was a temporary solution as states experimented with new arrangements and a social consensus evolved. Congress was always free to revise Doma later.
But the majority overturned Doma with a confusing combination of logic that mixed principles of federalism with language about equal protection.
The Washington Times editorial decried the Court's rulings in Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which held that proponents of California's same-sex marriage ban had no standing to defend the law in federal court and as a result reinstated equal marriage rights in that state, claiming that the court "demolish[ed] the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman." From the editorial:
In the case United States v. Windsor, a Supreme Court majority decreed that homosexuals considered to be married in the 12 states and the District that recognize such rites are eligible to receive federal tax and other benefits, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, notwithstanding.
This newfound reverence for acts of Congress is particularly notable because DOMA flew through Congress in only four months after scant consideration in the House or Senate. In fact, Congress did not receive a report on the full the impact of Section 3 until after it was enacted. On September 5, 1996, less than three weeks before the bill was signed into law, former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) asked the General Accounting Office (GAO, now called the General Accountability Office) to identify the federal provisions that DOMA would affect. In 1997, the GAO issued the report, and identified 1,049 such provisions.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized The Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto's "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault," following Taranto's claim that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military constitutes a "war on men."
In a June 17 WSJ column, Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that Sen. McCaskill's efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men." McCaskill has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who ignored her legal advisors to overturn the ruling of an Air Force jury that found an officer guilty of sexual assault. Taranto blamed the victim of the assault for "recklessness" and claimed that McCaskill's work was an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
McCaskill responded to Taranto on June 27 in an op-ed at the Daily Beast, writing that he has a "disregard for the severity of sexual assault" and highlighting his "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault":
Mr. Taranto says that I'm involved in a crusade to "criminalize male sexuality." For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto's bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.
Mr. Taranto's arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change.
My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice. And our fight won't stop until we give the brave men and women of our military the resources and justice they deserve.
In less than one week, the Supreme Court has issued four decisions immunizing corporate defendants from liability for their wrongdoings and closing the courthouse door to individuals seeking redress. The Court handed victories to the pro-corporate U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has an unprecedented success rate before the Roberts Court and which filed amicus briefs in all of the cases.
As The Wall Street Journal reported before the Court issued three pro-corporate decisions on June 24:
While business litigants often found themselves on the winning side of cases under the tenure of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, they have made advances since Chief Justice John Roberts took the helm in 2005.
On June 20, the Court ruled in American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant that class action waiver provisions would be enforced even if doing so would make it impossible for small businesses to protect their rights under federal law. In spite of the fact that the decision could have a serious impact on individuals' ability to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing, media coverage was scant.
On June 24, the Supreme Court handed down three more decisions that roll back individual rights to redress for corporate wrongdoing.
In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in Vance v. Ball State University the Court gave made it more difficult for an employee to hold an employer liable for workplace harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As Justice Alito explained:
Under Title VII, an employer's liability for such harassment may depend on the status of the harasser. If the harassing employee is the victim's co-worker, the employer is liable only if it was negligent in controlling working conditions. In cases in which the harasser is a "super- visor," however, different rules apply.
The majority opinion in Vance defined "supervisor" narrowly, leaving Vance, an African-American woman who sued her employer for creating a racially hostile work environment, without redress.
In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg wrote:
Exhibiting remarkable resistance to the thrust of our prior decisions, workplace realities, and the EEOC's Guidance, the Court embraces a position that relieves scores of employers of responsibility for the behavior of the supervisors they employ.
The Court struck another blow to enforcing civil rights laws with its decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court limited employees' ability to prevail in cases alleging retaliation under Title VII.
In her dissenting opinion in Nassar, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drew attention to the Court's results-oriented decision-making in favor of employers:
In this endeavor, the Court is guided neither by precedent, nor by the aimsof legislators who formulated and amended Title VII. In-deed, the Court appears driven by a zeal to reduce the number of retaliation claims filed against employers.
Justice Ginsburg also delivered a statement about Vance and Nassar from the bench:
Both decisions dilute the strength of Title VII in ways Congress could not have intended. . . . Today, the ball again lies in Congress' court to correct this Court's wayward interpretations of Title VII.
Finally, the Court ruled against a woman who was severely injured by a generic drug and sued the manufacturer. In Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, the Court ruled that federal law related to pharmaceuticals preempts a plaintiff's right to sue the drug company under state law. The plaintiff, Karen Bartlett, had suffered severe injuries after she took a generic pain drug.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) noted one week before the Court handed down its decision in Am Ex:
Data on the Supreme Court in recent years shows a heavy pro-corporate tilt.
Follow this pro-business trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you'll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chamber of Commerce.
These decisions continue the Roberts Court's track record of pro-corporate decisions. The question is, will the media cover this trend or allow the decisions to go unnoticed?
Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto defended his recent column that dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military as a "war on men." Taranto has a long history of making sexist remarks.
From the June 18 edition of WSJ Live's Opinion Journal Live:
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The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
In May, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.
In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.
Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*
Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.
But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.
The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.
Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.
While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.
UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed advocated for police around the country to use New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy as a model, which has no proven evidence of reducing crime rates and has historically targeted racial minorities.
Stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy which allows police officers to stop and search individuals they consider to be suspicious, is currently under review in the case Floyd v. New York. The New York Police Department has conducted more than four million stops since 2002, and according to a New York Times editorial, a federal judge "noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior." The suit charges the NYPD with illegally detaining these individuals "not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race."
In her Journal op-ed, Heather Mac Donald disputed these charges, claiming that stop-and-frisk policies in New York have "helped the city achieve an astonishing drop in violent crime" and should be New York's "most valued export" along with other NYPD policies to the rest of the nation. She claimed that stop-and-frisks overwhelmingly targeted blacks and Hispanics because "the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities," and concluded the crime rate would increase nationwide if the policy were overturned.
But there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime in New York City. New York Magazine noted that while stop-and-frisks have "skyrocketed" in the past decade, non-fatal shootings in the city have remained steady. Stop-and-frisk has done little to identify illegal firearms, as a New York Times editorial noted, as "guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops." And the New York Civil Liberties Union similarly explained that while total violent crime fell in New York City by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010, cities that did not have stop-and-frisk policies saw even larger violent crime declines in the same time period, by as much as "59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore."
In fact, the drop in violence in New York City is part of a trend that preceded widespread use of stop-and-frisk. As the Times reported, New York's sharpest drop in homicides came before 2002, the year stop-and-frisks started rising in New York. Forbes magazine provided the following graph, showing that "the number of murders decreased sharply between 1990 and 1998," while then remaining relatively steady during the period that stop-and-frisks increased dramatically:
Right-wing media are continuing to follow GOP talking points opposing filibuster reform by pretending President Obama's attempts to fill judicial vacancies are dangerously unprincipled.
By shamelessly repeating Sen. Chuck Grassley's debunked analogy that the president's current nominations to the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are a "type of court-packing reminiscent of FDR's era," right-wing media appear to be running out of excuses for rampant Republican obstructionism. Consequently, this "radical and different" treatment of the president's nominees as opposed to that of past Republican presidents has led to the real possibility that Senate rules will be changed in July to require up-or-down votes for executive and judicial nominees.
GOP insistence on clinging to an ahistorical characterization of the president's moves to fill existing seats on the D.C. Circuit as tantamount to former President Franklin Roosevelt's proposal to create new seats on the Supreme Court has been dismissed as "silly on its face" and incapable of "passing the laugh test" by multiple experts.
Nevertheless, The Weekly Standard has parroted the false line, declaring that the "nominations are simply a power play" so the court will "vote in his administration's favor all the time." The Wall Street Journal similarly warned that the president wanted judges who "rubber stamp liberal laws," leading him to his "flood-the-zone strategy" for the D.C. Circuit, "a liberal power play that shows contempt for traditional political checks and balances." Breitbart.com is breathlessly proclaiming the nominations show "Obama has declared war on judicial independence" and is "trying to declare law by executive fiat."
Ironically, Grassley and now Rep. Tom Cotton have introduced bills that would block the president's nominations by eliminating the vacant seats -- literally court-packing in reverse. In a companion move to their bad sense of history, the GOP is relying on bogus numbers to claim the D.C. Circuit doesn't need the president's nominees because of its workload, an assertion refuted not only by the nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States (which recommends the size remain the same), but also by the court's former Chief Judge and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Right-wing media are nonetheless repeating this discredited spin, in support of the unprecedented Republican blockade of judicial nominees.
The additional GOP threat of filibusters of the president's executive nominees to head the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to warn he will demand a simple majority vote for all of the president's nominees in July.
The Wall Street Journal encouraged Republican obstructionism by calling on the GOP to filibuster President Obama's nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, ignoring that historic levels of GOP obstructionism have caused judicial emergencies and falsely claiming that Obama is trying to "pack" the court.
On June 4, Obama nominated Cornelia Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Robert Wilkins to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. In his June 4 remarks announcing the nominations, Obama highlighted that Republicans have routinely blocked his nominees to the court in the past, and asked that the Senate give his current nominees an "up or down vote" without partisan obstruction. If Republicans filibuster these current nominees, Senate Democrats may move to change filibuster rules in order to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees.
Despite these remarks, a June 5 Journal editorial urged Republicans to obstruct Obama's most recent nominations, claiming that Democrats were bluffing in their response to the filibuster and falsely stating that the President sought to "pack a court that is often considered the second most important in the country."
But as Media Matters has noted, filling vacant seats is nothing like court packing, which seeks to change the total number of seats on the court. The D.C. Circuit currently has several of its judgeships vacant, resulting in judicial emergencies as the vacancies leave the court skewed towards the Republicans on the bench. The resulting decisions have been unsurprisingly hostile to progressive legislation and policy supported by Democratic presidents.
Furthermore, the Journal itself has previously reported on the negative effects of the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented the administration from addressing these judicial emergencies. The Journal's Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib detailed how GOP obstructionism made the Senate "an embarrassment to itself" that "increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis."
In fact, according to Dr. Sheldon Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts who focuses on judicial nominations, "the level of obstruction of Obama circuit court nominees during the last Congress was unprecedented." The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained Goldman's research:
Goldman calculates his Index of Obstruction and Delay by adding together the number of unconfirmed nominations, plus the number of nominations that took more than 180 days to confirm (not including nominations towards the end of a given Congress) and dividing that by the total number of nominations. During the last Congress, Goldman calculates, the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Obama circuit court nominations was 0.9524.
"That's the highest that's ever been recorded," he tells me. "In this last Congress it approached total obstruction or delay."
By contrast, during the 108th Congress, from 2003-2004 - which is the most comparable, because George W. Bush was president and Republican controlled the Senate, meaning Dems had to use procedural tactics available to the minority to block nominations -- the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Bush circuit court nominations was far lower, at 0.6176.
On Obama's district court nominations during the 112th Congress, Goldman's Index of Obstruction and Delay was a high 0.8716, he says. Nothing in Bush's years comes even close, he adds.