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Judicial nominee who opposed abortion, gay marriage won't preside over a federal court in Georgia (Update)

President Barack Obama's lengthy push to get a judicial nominee with a controversial legislative voting record appointed to a federal court bench in Georgia appears all but dead.

Michael Boggs - a state judge and former Georgia state lawmaker who has opposed abortion, stood against gay marriage, and voted to keep the confederate battle flag in the state's flag - will not have enough votes in the U.S. Senate to gain approval for a lifetime post in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., today told the New York Times that Boggs won't have enough votes to make it out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, effectively becoming Obama's first judicial nominee to fail in the president's second and final term in office.

Last December, Obama nominated Boggs as part of a deal struck with Georgia U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss to fill several vacancies in Georgia's federal courts. Both Republican lawmakers had blocked the president's prior choices due to an outdated "blue slip" tradition allowing senators to block federal judicial nominees in their home state. In the agreement, Chambliss and Isakson agreed not to fight the nomination of Jill Pryor, Obama's choice the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee exchange, if the president supported their choices for two other federal benches.

For much of the past year, Georgia's Democratic congressmen and civil rights leaders have blasted Obama for his support of Boggs and fellow judicial nominee Mark Cohen, an Atlanta attorney who has previously defended Georgia's voter ID laws. At one point, Congressman David Scott, D-Atlanta, even criticized U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, for not slamming the federal bench picks hard enough. The battle created tension between Obama and his most ardent supporters in the Congressional Black Caucus.

But months of growing criticism, plus a poor showing at his confirmation hearing in May, led White House officials to slowly distance themselves from Boggs. Meanwhile, Cohen advanced from his hearing with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and is still in line to be confirmed.

Scott this morning expressed his relief that Boggs wouldn't be presiding over one of Georgia's federal courts.

“I’m glad that this nomination is over, but sad that it had to go this far," Scott tells CL. "A broad coalition had to work for a year to stop this nomination. Our efforts could have been spent pushing better nominees through instead of stopping this one. I think everyone can agree that this nominee should never have been submitted to the Senate.”

We've also reached out to Chambliss, Isakson, and Lewis for comment. If we hear back of any them, we'll post updates.

UPDATE, 4:00 p.m. Following this morning's report, White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that “the president believes that Judge Boggs has the qualifications to serve in this role,” and wants him to stay in the running. If Boggs isn't confirmed by the end of 2014, Obama would need to renominate him again. Earnest didn't say whether the president would pick Boggs again in 2015.



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