Family Research Council

May 30, 2013 - Thursday

Bench-Pressed: Libs Try to Muscle onto Courts

If you don't like the court's decisions, change the people making them! That seems to be Barack Obama's philosophy, as he gets ready to pick one of the biggest fights of his presidency with Republicans. After simmering in the background for a few months, the issue of judicial nominations is about to boil over. Instead of working within the current system, the President is preparing his troops to tear down the old Senate rules and relax the process for confirming judges.

For the Obama administration, flooding the courts with activist liberals would be the single most effective way to accomplish the President's agenda. It would also give the White House's extreme ideology a more permanent grip on the courts, since most judges have infinitely longer terms than he does. As most experts predicted, his primary target is the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered by many the second most important bench in America (next to the U.S. Supreme Court). Unlike so many appellate courts, the D.C. Circuit is one of the more balanced benches in the country -- which is a good thing, since it hears a majority of the challenges to executive rules and regulations.

Of the court's 11 seats, three are vacant. But of the remaining eight, four are held by Republican-appointed judges and four by Democratic-appointed ones (the Senate just confirmed the fourth, Sri Srinivasian, last week). Those three empty seats might be concerning if the Court were one of the busier circuits in America. It isn't. This bench heard 108 appeals per judge last year, the Wall Street Journal points out -- four times less than the Second and Eleventh Circuits. And the workload is still "trending down." "Even if the court had only eight authorized judges, the docket would still be among the lightest in the country," write the WSJ editors.

What's more, not one of those vacancies is considered a "judicial emergency," the term used by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to describe benches that have waited years -- some as many as eight -- for replacements. Knowing that, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is suggesting a compromise: moving the D.C. circuit seats to the benches that need them most.

That won't fly with this President, who is fixated on tipping the scales of the D.C. Circuit. And considering how its judges embarrassed him in January, most people aren't surprised. Remember, this is the court that unanimously struck down the President's "recess" appointments and scolded him for trying to sneak nominees past the Senate when it wasn't in recess. That stung, and now the sulking White House is setting out to pack the court with people more agreeable to its lawbreaking.

The entire plan, however, hinges on the U.S. Senate. The only way to ease the rules on judicial confirmations would be for Majority Leader Harry Reid to find 51 Senators (50, if you count the Vice President's tie-breaker) who are willing to lower the threshold for approving nominees. A slam dunk, right? Wrong. Even as the majority, a lot of Democrats are squeamish about changing the Senate process. Some are worried (and rightly so) that what goes around, comes around. If Republican leaders get their act together and win control of the White House or Senate -- or both -- the same rules would come back to haunt Democrats. With leaders like Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) opposed to the idea, the vote would be a nail-biter.

Still, if Sen. Reid prevails, the President would immediately pull the trigger on three D.C. Circuit Court nominees. It's a dangerous proposition, especially in a country that's about to be reminded how important our courts are. When the Supreme Court rules on the fate of marriage in the next few weeks, maybe more Americans will wake up to the gravity of the President's threat.

ExxonMobile Won't Pump out Political Correctness

It won't take the pain out of gas prices, but it might comfort you to know that at ExxonMobil, your patronage isn't fueling the homosexual agenda. For the 14th straight year, shareholders voted to maintain their reputation as the only major oil company to uphold the values of a majority of Americans. At Exxon's annual meeting, the corporation voted down a resolution to add special protections for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to its employment opportunity policy.

After so many years of resistance, the result may not have come as a surprise--but the measure of victory certainly did. A whopping 81% of shareholders voted against the amendment -- the largest margin ever. Liberals say traditional views on sexuality can affect companies' bottom line -- and they're right! ExxonMobil is coming off its second-biggest profit year ever!

In years past, Exxon's annual meeting attracted hundreds of protestors hoping to pressure one of the nation's largest employers to capitulate. The lone demonstrator at this year's meeting should be very instructive to business leaders and others. You can never appease the cultural bullies by seeking to accommodate their demands, but if you refuse to negotiate with them, they'll eventually leave and harass someone else.

We applaud ExxonMobil for standing firm and not ceding the moral high ground to the bullies of the Left. Their conviction is a refreshing change from companies like Target and Amazon.com, who continue to alienate customers with their radical political views. Join us in thanking ExxonMobil for refusing to be bullied. Click here to send the company a note of appreciation!

Faith at a Slow Gallup in U.S.

Most Americans didn't need a poll to tell them that religion is having a lesser impact on society. Like anyone else, they can turn on the television or open the newspaper and attack after attack on faith. Years after purging God from schools, the country is finally feelings its effects.

When Gallup asked Americans if religion was losing its influence in America, 77% of people agreed. Only in the year after September 11, when the nation looked to faith for comfort, did a majority think religion was having a greater impact on the country. As Christians, we feel the gap widening with every lawsuit against cheerleaders' Bible signs or every school board rejection of the 10 Commandments. Even the military, once the most openly spiritual institution in America, is marginalizing Christianity.

So much so, it turns out, that Kansas legislators felt compelled to pass a resolution affirming the military's "200+ years of Judeo-Christian tradition." Led by Sen. Mitch Holmes (R), a veteran himself, the state senate denounced the "documented trend of increasing hostility from special interests toward religious expression by service members..." Holmes circulated a list of 20 incidents of religious intolerance in the military just since 2010 and encouraged leaders to denounce them. They did -- overwhelmingly. Louisiana is hoping to follow their lead, as 25 state leaders cosponsored a similar military freedom resolution (which FRC helped draft).

Meanwhile, many of the same people who told Gallup that religion is having less of an impact say they wish it had more. Seventy-five percent of respondents recognize religion's benefits to society and think it would be good if Americans were more religious. Why? Because nothing offers individuals more purpose and meaning in life -- and nothing else will create a more stable and prosperous society than one that values every human being. Not only do those who have a personal faith benefit -- but all of society benefits from those who see the inherent value in their fellow man and therefore have a moral motivation to help the poor and vulnerable. This Christian foundation is what has set America apart as such a great and compassionate nation -- and without religion, it's only a matter of time until we can no longer maintain it.

** For a deeper look at the administration's tax exempt crackdown, check out my new column on Fox News, "With the IRS, It's Your Money and Your Life." Also, FRC's Director of the Center for Human Dignity, Anna Higgins, explains why fetal pain should be a driving force behind abortion limits in her new Washington Times piece, "Preventing the Suffering that Abortion Inflicts." Last but not least, FRC's Bob Morrison, a Coast Guard veteran, praises the courage of Admiral William Lee in a new op-ed about his decision to share his faith--no matter what the consequences.


Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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