Senate Approves Former Planned Parenthood Director as Judge

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2011   |   4:35PM   |   Washington, DC

The U.S. Senate today overcame a Republican filibuster and approved a former Planned Parenthood abortion business director, John McConnell, as a federal judge in Rhode Island.

Senators voted 63-33 to surpass the 60-vote threshold necessary to stop the filibuster and approve the nomination of McConnell’s nomination to the District Court for the District of Rhode Island. his nomination previously cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee recently on a party-line 11-7 vote.

Senate Republicans joining all Democrats to end debate included Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins of Maine, Lyndsey Graham of South Carolina, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and John Thune of South Dakota.

McConnell was confirmed on party lines in a 50-44 vote afterwards.

Before the vote, several senators suggested McConnell lied or offered contradictory sworn statements about a lead paint case in which he was involved.

“I don’t know how I can say it any more gently,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, during floor debate. “The fact is, he lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation process.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is not related to the nominee, also voiced opposition to the Obama pick.

“We have been working in good faith with our Democrat colleagues to confirm consensus judicial nominees in general and to fill judicial emergencies in particular,” said the Kentucky Republican. “So it is disappointing that our Democrat friends have chosen to depart from this bi-partisan practice and to press the McConnell nomination, which would not fill a judicial emergency and is about as far from a consensus nomination as one could imagine.”

Pro-life advocates say McConnell is a pro-abortion stalwart who doesn’t deserve a place in the federal courts. In fact, McConnell disclosed in his public questionnaire that he was director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island from 1997 until 2001.

“Jack McConnell made multiple donations to EMILY’s List, a group whose sole purpose is to support pro-choice Democratic female candidates. According to OpenSecrets, Jack McConnell made a $1,000 donation to EMILY’s List in 2008 and another $1,000 donation in 2005,” says Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council. “McConnell’s close involvement with Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List would cloud his objectivity on abortion related cases.”

McClusky also says “McConnell’s view of law falls outside of the mainstream and indicates that he is incapable of being fair and impartial and would legislate from the bench.”

He has publicly written and endorsed his support for “an active government” that should not “stand on the sidelines” when it comes to pursuing his vision of a just result. He said of himself that “I am an emotional person about injustice at any level—personal, societal, global” and that there are wrongs that need to be righted, and that’s how I see the law.”

McConnell has also been given a low rating from the American Bar Association — with the group giving him a less than average rating of “substantial majority qualified, minority unqualified.”

“He is one of only four of 63 current judicial nominees to receive this lackluster rating, which almost necessarily means he generated negative comments from judges before whom he has appeared and from other lawyers who know him,” McClusky said. “For a practicing lawyer with 25 years of experience to obtain such a low rating speaks poorly of his legal abilities and suggests that his nomination is not about merit but is instead about being a highly-connected personal injury plaintiffs’ lawyer (and former state treasurer for the Rhode Island Democratic Party).”

On March 10, 2010, President Obama nominated McConnell to the bench. The Senate declined to act on McConnell’s nomination and twice returned it to Obama. Nonetheless, Obama re-nominated McConnell on January 5.

McConnell has also come under fire for massive contributions to current members of the Senate. Since 2001, the McConnells have given Reed $13,200, including $8,800 for his 2008 re-election campaign. He gave Senate Judiciary Committee members Al Franken, Charles Schumer $1000 each and sent $12,600 to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. In total, 16 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate has received donations from McConnell.

ACTION: Respond to your senators at about their vote on the McConnell nomination.