Boxer to Filibuster Unless Roberts Backs Abortion

Barbara Boxer pledged yesterday that she will vote against John Roberts’ confirmation to the Supreme Court unless he promises to support abortion rights and to filibuster him if he refuses to answer specific questions.

Boxer threatens to slow Senate activity over court pick / She’ll vote ‘no’ unless Roberts backs right to abortion (SF Chronicle)

Sen. Barbara Boxer said Wednesday she will vote against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts unless he supports rights she considers essential – – including abortion and privacy — and slow Senate business to a crawl if he doesn’t answer her questions. “I need to know exactly where he will stand, and I need to know if he will fight to protect and defend the rights and freedoms of the American people,” Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters after addressing a group of law students and abortion rights supporters at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Those rights, she said, include reproductive choice and the constitutional right of privacy that was the basis of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. Boxer said she was alarmed to learn that Roberts, as a lawyer in President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, referred in a 1981 memo to a “so-called right of privacy.”

Roberts must answer questions about his writings, his work on anti- abortion legal briefs, and his rulings as a federal appeals court judge, including a recent opinion that questioned federal authority to protect endangered species, Boxer said. If he declines, she said, she will “use all the parliamentary tools I’ve been given as a U.S. senator,” including procedures that “make it difficult for other business to get done until we get the information we need.” She did not threaten a filibuster, however, reflecting Democrats’ hesitation to embark on all-out political warfare against the nomination.

This is an outrageous abuse of her office. To say that “She did not threaten a filibuster” is disengenous, given that she threatened to “use all the parliamentary tools [she’s] been given as a U.S. senator.” The filibuster is, after all, one of those tools and the only meaningful one for a senator in the minority trying to stop a relatively uncontroversial nominee.

Traditionally, judicial nominees simply do not answer questions about cases that they may be asked to hear or comment on recent cases that are outside the realm of settled law. The rationale for that is to protect their independence, without which there is no separation of powers.

It’s true that presidents try to guess how their prospective nominees would vote if appointed to the bench. They do not, however, ask them to pledge to vote a certain way on the issues. A pledge made in open Senate hearings, though, would presumably be binding in a way that a generic promise to the president to “strictly interpret the law” would not.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jack Ehrlich says:

    No judge should be asked to rule on something before an appointment to the court. Barbara Boxer needs to read the constitution. If she dares to filibuster this candidate on the grounds stated, I, living in the state she represents, will start a recall petition to remover her from office.

  2. Kent says:

    Are you sure a recall petition isn’t a good idea regardless?

  3. Herb says:

    Barbara Boxer:

    The idol of women?
    Star left field player of the liberal team.
    Don’t know what she don’t know.
    Knows little about what she thinks she knows.
    Is definitely outside the circle.
    Lefty lamb being led to slaughter by the lefty farmer.
    A dum dum.

    did I forget anything?

    I do hope that she does filibuster, then the Republican can use the Nuke Option and then maybe, the Democrats will be really upset with her.

  4. Bachbone says:

    When I read, “Boxer to Filibuster…”, I immediately thought, “Gawd, Mike Tyson is back.”

  5. Stephen Gardner says:

    She is why, I stopped being a Democrat. I can not believe the nerve of this person. Who the hell does she think she is. California should start a recall petition on her immediately. She is not fit to serve.

  6. Marilynn Porter says:

    Barbara Boxer is an embarrassment to the state that she represents. I’m glad I’m not from that state. You’re right, she needs to read the constitution. There is no amendment guaranteeing the right to privacy. Even though Americans should have the right to do some things in private without the government interfering, they don’t have the right to hurt or murder innocent people even though it is done in private. There’s a big difference!!

  7. BobG says:

    Maybe she’ll cry again too.

  8. Jack Cramer says:

    And to think I spent forty years of my life as a soldier defending this womans right to be/act so so stupid while contaminating the air in several key committee’s of the US Senate.

    Jack L. Cramer
    US Army-Retired