Saturday, October 01, 2011

Cornyn "perplexed" by his own actions delaying US Attorney appointments for years

Barack Obama finally caved in and appointed the US Attorney candidates Sen. John Cornyn had insisted upon, ending a nearly three year stretch in which the Lone Star State had no appointed US Attorneys thanks to partisan bickering. Reported Texas Lawyer:
Better late than never: It took President Barack Obama two-and-half years to nominate U.S. attorneys for Texas. Last week, the four lawyers won U.S. Senate confirmation.

Obama nominated the four lawyers in June, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations on Sept. 8.

On Sept. 26, the full Senate confirmed Sarah Saldaña as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas; Ken Magidson as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas; Malcolm Bales as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas; and Robert Pitman as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. All four previously have served as federal prosecutors in the state.

While U.S. attorney posts are some of the most important a president fills, partisan politics played a role in the delay in seating Texas' four most important federal law enforcement positions. Texas' Republican U.S. senators and the Texas House Democratic Congressional Delegation fought over which party should have the White House's ear when suggesting candidates for the posts. In some cases, the Republican senators and the Texas House delegation sent competing names to the president.
In a comment that to Grits seems absurd given how this saga played out, "Cornyn says he and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, 'were trying to work constructively with the White House, and many members of the Texas House delegation were as perplexed as we were why the White House just did not move forward with a nomination — any nomination. But I am pleased with the result, even though I can't explain why it took so long to get there.'"

Really, sir? You were "perplexed" by the fact that your threats to use senatorial privilege to block candidates you didn't personally select delayed these appointments for years on end? Cornyn created his own "screening committee" to recommend US Attorney candidates - including all four of those eventually named - and has since been engaged in a game of brinkmanship to bully his particular choices through the process. In 2009, reported MAIN Justice, Cornyn announced that ""No applicant will go forward who does not go through the screening committee because I'm not going to return a blue slip on them."

According to the same MAIN Justice article, "President George W. Bush generally ignored blue slips from Democrats, but the Obama White House has been much more solicitous of Republicans in the nominating process." They could have added that the reason Obama has been more solicitous is the expanded use of filibusters in such circumstances by GOP senators.

So if John Cornyn is really "perplexed" over the delay he's either amnesiac or a moron. Since I actually consider Sen. Cornyn a pretty smart guy, I think he's just being two-faced.


Prison Doc said...

Politics as usual Grits, neither side has a monopoly on it. Chill out.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's not "politics as usual," PD. As far as I know it's a first, and not "usual" at all, except for the part about being two-faced. That's pretty common.

I get that you're a) cynical and b) prone to making partisan excuses, but Dems didn't do that to GWB's USA appointments. These delays were unprecedented - the opposite of "usual" - and Cornyn pretending to be "perplexed" about a situation he caused just puts a cherry on top.

Soronel Haetir said...

I would say that the HoR should have no part in such nominations at all and I would not be at all surprised if the Senate as a whole is willing to scuttle all manner of nominations if a president ignores senatorial prerogatives on such a point. And the Senate doing so is not new, though the scale here may be, I'm not sure there. Boxer and Feinstein held up a bunch of nominations to California posts because the Bush admin refused to nominate any of their suggestions.

rodsmith said...

i think he should have grown a pair and told the senator that as far as the White House was concerned texas would get a new AG when one of two things happens. You ass was removed via a vote or mine IS!

Alex S. said...

Cornyn screwed Texans out of some excellent nominees by delaying this process. Michael McCrum for the Western District would have made an excellent US Attorney for the Western District. I'm sure all of these people will do the best they can, but they were 3rd or 4th choices who were able to play the waiting game. Intellectual dishonesty is my biggest pet peeve among politicians--and it seems that trait is a prerequisite for Republicans.

Anonymous said...

These appointments may be Obama's best chance yet to be the transformative leader that we expect him to be.

Anonymous said...

I recently read your blog about a particular DA in Texas. I've been doing some research (in relation to him) and I have a case I'd like to ask about, but I cannot seem to find an email address. Is there anyway I can get in contact with you?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Soronel, I know there were senatorial fights over judges in California, but I never heard of US Attorneys - which are NOT lifetime appointments - getting this kind of opposition under the Bush Administration.

@ Alex, don't have any problem with Saldaña, Magdison, et. al.. My problem is holding up the appointments so long. If senators have a specific reason to oppose someone, that's one thing. If they believe they should have the authority to appoint instead of the President in whom that power is constitutionally vested, which has been John Cornyn's position, that's another matter entirely.

Anonymous said...

The new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas is Robert Pittman and he is exceptional! If you are reading this judge, congratulations. You know me - I practice before you regularly and I'm extremely pleased to see that you've been nominated!! You're the BEST!

Amy said...

Any judge Obama appoints will legislate from the bench and disregard the tenants of the Constitution. I'm glad Cornyn Blocked them. As for the deems blocking spots under Bush, give me a break.
The vitriol spewed was was/is unconscionable.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Amy, these are US Attorneys, not judges - they're basically prosecutors, and unlike judges they're not life appointments.

Also, I think you mean "tenets" of the constitution, not "tenants." The constitution is not an apartment complex and does not have renters.

Phillip Baker said...

Most assuredly this was NOT the usual process for these appointments. Does nobody remember W and his crowd claiming a president has the RIGHT to appointment anybody he wants and decrying the Senate's interference. The Constitution gives the US Senate the power of "advice and consent". Republicans have stacked courts across this country with ideologues first, good candidates second. The extreme partisanship of the country today was highlighted perfectly by Amy, who assumed that ANY Obama appointee would legislate from the bench (Ignoring that the right wing judges stuffed into our courts have been "legislating from the bench ever since). Amy gives no thought to the issue, only falls back on those Fox bullet points she learned from Glen Beck. It's time we all stopped demonizing each other and start working for the country, not the party. We will soon be ungovernable if we do not.

Kevin Stouwie said...

John Cornyn is a complete jerk.

He was a jerk when he was a District Judge in Bexar County, he was a jerk when he was on the Texas Supreme Court, he was a jerk when he was AG in Texas, and he is a complete jerk now that he is a U. S. Senator.

He is as partisan as they come. He was NEVER willing to work with Dems, and he saw, as he ascended the political ladder, that he didn't need to work with Dems, especially because they have no power in Texas anymore.

Prosecution of crime, which is 90% of what U.S. Attorneys do, really need not, and should not, become so friggin' political. The personal or political beliefs of a prosecutor are not supposed to trump the sworn duties entailed with the job. Good, smart lawyers understand this. Cornyn is smart, and he really ought to be ashamed of himself.

But, cronyism being what it is, Cornyn and his ilk decided to needlessly impose themselves into this, which is further evidence of how polarized everything seems to have become.

The junior prosecutors in the U.S. Dept. of Justice have all learned a valuable lesson here: Kiss the ring, obey Senator John Cornyn and his cronies, or else your professional goals will suffer, no matter how well you do the important job of prosecuting crime.


rodsmith said...

well kevin seems to me all those federal prosecutors need to start digging. as long as this cook has been in politics i'm willing to bet money he's got some NASY SKELLETONS in his closet that could bring some major prison time if someone would just yank open the door!

Anonymous said...

Cornyn is WEIRD!

A Texas PO said...

Anybody up for a constitutional amendment that bans political parties? Wouldn't that be a hoot? Can you imagine national politics operating under the same principles as Texas municipal governments, where politicians have to state their platforms rather than hiding behind the party line? Alas, the two biggest special interest groups in Washington will never allow such a move.

But hey, we finally got us some friggin US Attorneys down here and we still have conservative judges "legislating from the bench." BTW, I hate that phrase. Their job, according to the Constitution, is to interpret law, which they all do. You don't like the interpretation, change the damned law.