Friday, March 19, 2010

painted into a corner

Of all of the moves that the Obama Administration wishes it could do over on health care, the timing of the announcement of Scott Matheson, Jr. to fill Judge Michael McConnell's seat on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has to be one of the dumbest.

Matheson had been a shoe in for the spot for months and months. I had heard rumors that Matheson had support from HHS Sec. Sebelius and DHS Sec. Napolitano last fall. Scott were friends with them from his days on the 2004 campaign trail and from his days working for Common Cause. Not to mention that Matheson is literally a Rhodes Scholar, a brilliant legal theorist, and imminently qualified. If Judge McConnell could have, he would have supported Matheson for the spot on the bench too--McConnell is also a law professor at the University of Utah--even though they are ideologically miles apart.

Heck, once he was announced, the entire Utah delegation either wholeheartedly supported him (including noted hippies Sen. Hatch and Rep. Cheffetz) or didn't stand in the way. Scott Matheson is going to Judge Matheson, I have no doubt.

But by announcing Scott Matheson's appointment on March 3, after it became clear that Pelosi needed to flip votes to pass the Senate version of the Health Care bill, Obama cost themselves a vote they might have been able to get.

As soon as Scott Matheson was announced, the right wing began to baselessly allege that President Obama was selling the Judgeship for Rep. Jim Matheson's, Scott's brother, vote.

If Jim were to vote for the health care bill, those hacks' smears would be "confirmed." If Jim voted against the health care bill, his union allies might abandon him (like they are abandoning Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA)).

In the end, it looks like Speaker Pelosi and her whips (which now includes Dennis Kucinich on this issue thanks to Obama's trip to his district) will reach the magic number 216 they need to pass the Senate bill with the negotiated amendments on Sunday without Matheson's vote.

Still, it goes to show that Obama's judicial pick team has been WAY too slow in clearing candidates for openings. This is especially true when you consider that during the period when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, they should have just piled on the judicial nominee votes. Now, Judges could be filibustered by the Republicans (even though they considered even suggesting such a thing for Bush's nominees to be the end of humanity).

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