Political Notes – Senate finally confirms four of Georgia’s federal judges

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The U.S. Senate has finally confirmed four new federal judges for Georgia, ending a process that took years to play out because of Democratic-Republican animosity.

The Senate voted 100-0 Tuesday evening to confirm Leslie Joyce Abrams, an assistant U.S. Attorney, as a district court judge for the Middle District of Georgia in Albany. Abrams is the sister of state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), the House minority leader.

Senators confirmed by voice vote two other judges for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta: Mark Cohen, a Troutman Sanders attorney who was executive counsel to Gov. Zell Miller during the 1990s, and DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross.

The Senate voted 99-0 last Thursday to confirm Leigh Martin May to another judgeship for the Northern District.

These judicial appointments, which were brokered as part of a deal between the Obama administration and Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, had been held up for a long period because of inter-party fighting in the Senate. Cohen was first contacted about the possibility of a judgeship in 2011, more than three years ago.

Still left out in the cold is another district court nominee, state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs of Waycross. Boggs’ nomination has been stalled because of conservative votes he took as a state legislator more than 10 years ago, and his confirmation prospects are cloudy at best.

About that Keystone vote

Just before the Senate voted to confirm Abrams as a federal judge, senators blocked passage of a bill authorizing the Keystone oil pipeline on a 59-41 vote. The measure needed 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster but fell one vote short.

David Perdue, who’ll join the Senate in January, released this statement on the bill’s failure to clear the filibuster hurdle:

“The Keystone XL Pipeline should never have been a political issue. It’s disappointing that tonight Senate Democrats prevented its passage. Building Keystone would create thousands of American jobs and help lower energy costs for Georgia families.

“In the new Congress, I’m hopeful that the Republican majority will finally act on jobs and energy bills once blocked by Harry Reid and get the Senate working again. Unleashing our nation’s full energy potential remains one of my top priorities in the U.S. Senate.”

Henson’s OK with Shafer

State Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson (D-Tucker) sent out a statement Tuesday declaring his support for the election of Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) as Senate president pro tem for another two years:

“I congratulate Sen. David Shafer on his re-nomination as President Pro Tempore. Sen. Shafer has always had an open door for the Minority Caucus and is willing to work fairly with us to address the concerns of the people we represent. I will be proud to second his nomination and fully expect Senate Democrats to support his re-election to the position of Pro Tempore.”

Shafer defeated Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) in a Senate Republican caucus Monday to be nominated for the pro tem’s job that Shafer already holds. It was evidently a close vote: the two senators were tied on the initial ballot before Shafer was declared the winner.

Henson’s statement is an indication that Democrats won’t join in any floor fights against Shafer when he is formally reelected pro tem on the first day of the next session.

Buck is back, for a while

The Columbus City Council voted Tuesday to appoint former legislator Tom Buck as a replacement for city councilman Red McDaniel, who died Nov. 3.

Buck, 76, served in the Georgia House for 38 years before deciding not to run again in 2004. He will take McDaniel’s place on the council until the next city elections in 2016, but indicated he will not run for the seat at that time.

Honors

State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) has been named one of the “Public Officials of the Year” by the editors of Governing magazine.

The publication cited her work with legislative Republicans on important issues:

Abrams walked that tricky line, for example, by supporting legislation championed by Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, to overhaul the state’s Hope Scholarship program. While she disagreed with the governor that the program should be based on merit rather than need, Abrams was able to convince Deal and a majority of Republicans to compromise on other parts of the bill. Ultimately, the two sides agreed, among other things, to include low-interest loans and preserve most funding for pre-K programs. “My fundamental philosophy,” she says, “is that my first job is to cooperate and collaborate with the other side whenever I can.”

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta is scheduled to receive the Freedom Award from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society on Wednesday.

Lewis is being honored for his “lifelong contributions in the United States Congress and in the community extending the sphere of freedom, revitalizing our nation’s representative democracy, securing civil liberties for generations of Americans, and leading by example to advance greater understanding of public service, freedom and equality.”

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: David Perdue , David Shafer , Eleanor Ross , federal judges , John Lewis , Keystone pipeline , Leigh May Martin , Leslie Abrams , Mark Cohen , Stacey Abrams , Steve Henson , Tom Buck