On Tuesday, December 1, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 passed in the DC City Council with a vote of 11-2. After the bill is signed into law by Mayor Fenty, it will embark upon a 30 day congressional review period. Alliance for Justice recently added its name to a letter to Congress circulated by DC Vote that calls on the House to respect the right of DC residents to legislate on local issues such as marriage equality.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on two judicial nominees, Judges Alberto Diaz and James A. Wynn, Jr. both nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The committee decided to wait until Christmas Eve to vote on the nomination of Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
As of today, the Senate has confirmed 11 federal judges, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. By December 17, in the first years of both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations each had 27 federal judges confirmed.
We have previously pointed out the slow pace of judicial selection in the first year of the Obama administration. Not much has changed since then.
There is still time before the recess for the Senate to vote on the nominations that have cleared the Judiciary Committee. Yesterday, Senator Leahy (D-VT) called on his colleagues to vote on these nominees:
“I hope Senate Republicans will lift their objections, and allow us to proceed on the 27 nominations reported by the Judiciary Committee. Absent cooperation to confirm nominations, this Congress will be recorded in history as one of the least productive in the confirmation of judicial nominations. I hope the New Year will bring a renewed spirit of cooperation.”
The president must nominate and the Senate must confirm judges who will be strong voices for upholding the Constitution and the law to provide equal justice and protect personal freedoms for everyone in America.
Today we mark the 61st Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with International Human Rights Day. Earlier today, President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. In his acceptance speech he restated his belief in the U.S. as a standard bearer when it comes to human rights:
“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
Yet the Obama Administration has been unwilling to do the hard work of holding those who authorized torture during the Bush administration accountable. We cannot be a beacon of human rights in the world when we act against our own laws and values. We have to work hard to restore America’s place in the world, and that includes being willing to confront the actions of those who authorized torture and investigate how those abuses of power occurred.
Our confidence in moving forward as a nation, both under the rule of law and in accord with our international obligations, requires a thorough consideration of what has happened to our legal and political institutions and why.
That is why in honor of International Human Rights Day and the importance of restoring America’s standing in the world as a beacon of human rights, we sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter and petition, urging him to release the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report on the authors of the “torture memos,” Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury, and John Yoo, and authorize an investigation of those who ordered, designed, and authorized torture.
Yesterday Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced an amendment to the Senate health care bill that is similar to the Stupak-Pitts amendment that was passed by the House.
The Senate is debating the amendment today, and will likely vote later this afternoon. If the Nelson-Hatch amendment passes, the Stupak-Pitts amendment will almost definitely end up in the final health care bill. Passing health care reform in this country shouldn’t come at the cost of women’s reproductive rights. But that’s exactly what will happen if Democrats allow the anti-choice Nelson-Hatch amendment to become law. These amendments make it virtually impossible for insurance companies participating in the new health care system to provide abortion services for women who have their own private insurance plans.
This measure must be defeated. Time is of the essence, call your senators now and urge them to oppose Nelson’s amendment and stop it any way they can, including a vote to table it.
Capitol Switchboard – (202) 224-3121
UPDATE: The Senate just voted to table the Nelson amendment. The vote was 54 to 45. Thanks to all of you who took action.