Washington (CNN) – Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid struck a significant blow to one of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations Wednesday, as the senator’s office confirmed that Reid personally opposes Michael Boggs’ nomination to the federal bench.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told CNN that the Democratic leader feels he cannot vote for Boggs’ nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, given Boggs’ past views on abortion, gay marriage and the Confederate flag.
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The news sets up a pointed public break between the top two Democrats in the country.
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Boggs on Tuesday, insisting he is qualified and has a ten-year record as an impartial state judge.
But there is more at play.
Carney also said the nomination was a strategic move. He told reporters that the White House pushed the Boggs nomination as part of a compromise package with Republicans. In exchange for Boggs, and a couple of other GOP recommendations, Carney said Republicans would stop blocking a handful key Democratic judicial nominees.
“Our choice is clear: Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant?” Carney said.
But as the White House stands its ground, Reid is revving up opposition, stressing concerns raised by other Democrats in Congress at Boggs’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Boggs served as a conservative Democrat in the Georgia state legislature from 2000 to 2004. During those years, he supported legislation to post the identity and number of procedures done by abortion doctors online, pushed for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and twice voted to keep a Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag.
Those issues formed a drumbeat of doubt Wednesday, with six top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Boggs how he balanced his previous views as a legislator with his current duties as a Georgia court of appeals judge.
“My position… would be faithfulness to the rule of law,” Boggs answered, insisting that in his ten years as a judge he has separated his personal opinions from his rulings. “I think my record is the best evidence that I can separate any political opinion I might have (from my rulings.)
He addressed abortion specifically. “You have my commitment,” Boggs told senators, “I will follow the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court on women’s reproductive issues as I will on any other issue.”
Committee Democrats remained concerned, openly questioning whether they could take Boggs at his word that he would be impartial.
Reid’s statement against Boggs adds to pressure on Judiciary Committee Democrats to oppose the nomination. Several liberal groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn and the National Organization of Women have come out strongly against Boggs.
Reid’s office told CNN that while the senator is personally opposed to Boggs, he has made no decision on whether to block the nomination from going to the Senate floor for a vote.