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Roll Call

Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio at Odds Over Judge

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) once again came out against a federal judicial nomination backed a Republican today, this time putting himself at odds with Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

“Senator Rubio supports moving forward with the nomination of Judge Brian Davis,” Grassley said in a statement. “While I generally give great consideration to support from the home state Senators, in this case I cannot support the nomination. After carefully reviewing Judge Davis’ record, I have concluded that Judge Davis views the world through a lens that I think is inappropriate and unacceptable for a federal court judge.”

Davis has been nominated by President Obama to serve as a district judge for the Middle District of Florida.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Grassley has clashed with a fellow Republican over a judicial nomination. He opposed the nomination of Andrew Hurwitz to join the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite his backing from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Hurwitz narrowly avoided a GOP-led filibuster.

Grassley’s record of blocking nominees backed by members of his own Conference is zero out of four so far this Congress. He opposed Jeffrey Helmick of Ohio, who was confirmed as a district court judge earlier this month and was supported by Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio); Miranda Du of Nevada, who was supported by Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) and confirmed as a district court judge in March; and Mary Lewis of South Carolina, who backed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and confirmed as a district court judge this week, according to a Senate aide.

Grassley charged that Davis’ answers to certain questions indicate a lack of impartiality and a bias in favor of African-Americans.

He cited Davis’ comments on Joycelyn Elders who was Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton. Elders was dismissed in 1994 after she suggested that masturbation should be taught as a way of keeping young people from engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Grassley also cited Davis’ comments about Henry Foster, who was nominated in 1995 to replace Elders. Clinton withdrew that nomination after facing opposition, in part, from pro-life Senators concerned with Foster’s admission that he had performed abortions early in his medical career.

According to Grassley, Davis said in a 1994 speech that Elders was asked to resign “after being misinterpreted about student sex education, reminding us, lest we forget, that politically correct is spelled with capitol letters for melanin impregnated females.”

Regarding Foster, Davis said in a 1995 speech: “The Senate filibusters so as not to confirm the doctor because of a controversy over the number of abortions the doctor performed early in his career, reminding us again, lest we forget, that politically correct is also spelled with capitol letters for melanin impregnated males.”

Grassley said he asked Davis to explain the comments in the hope that “he would flatly disassociate himself from these remarks, and hopefully we would be able to move past them.”

But his answers were unsatisfactory to Grassley.

“In my estimation, Dr. Elders’ views were pretty clear,” Grassley said. “I don’t see how one can say she was ‘misunderstood.’ But much more importantly, I think it is entirely inappropriate to suggest that those who found fault with her views and comments did so because of her race.

“But it is not just that the comments suggest Judge Davis maintained a racial prejudice,” Grassley said. “Any fair reading of his comments makes clear that Judge Davis is assigning a racial motivation to those who had legitimate policy disagreements on particular issues. He is willing, even in his current explanation of his prior statement, to ignore the facts of why Dr. Elders was appropriately dismissed.”

Regarding Foster, Grassley said, “Some of us on this Committee recall the debate the Senate had on Dr. Foster’s nomination to be Surgeon General in 1995, and as part of that debate, the fact that he had performed abortions. That was but one concern of many regarding that nomination.”

Grassley also raised issue with comments Davis made in 1995 about a protest of about 400 people of Justice Clarence Thomas “because of his opinions in rulings affecting affirmative action and voting rights, reminding us, lest we forget, how easy it is for some of us to forget history.”

He also mentioned a concern about Davis’ views regarding sentencing and religious liberty.

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