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With blockade threat, Rubio and Scott show deference to Trump and South Florida may lose | Opinion

In World
June 08, 2024

The legislative blockade on judicial appointments Florida Republicans have vowed to erect in the U.S. Senate in retaliation for the conviction of former President Donald Trump might be less about principle and more of an election-year gamble — a flashback to eight years ago.

Regardless, the political move now threatens the confirmation of a Coral Gables attorney to the federal bench in Miami. What a shame.

In March 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the next president should choose the nominee. Of course, Republicans’ bet that the next president would be a Republican paid off when Trump won that year. And McConnell had created a new political ploy.

Now, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are part of a coalition of Senate Republicans vowing to block President Joe Biden’s nominations of federal judges and any Democratic legislation that is not “directly relevant to the safety of the American people.”

The reason: Trump’s conviction by a New York jury on 34 felony counts in late May.

“We are unwilling to aid and abet this White House in its project to tear this country apart,” reads a letter signed by the senators and posted on X by Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Nevermind that the case in question against Trump was not brought by the federal government, via the Justice Department, but by a Manhattan district attorney — and a jury reached the verdict.

The Trump loyalists are willing to grind legislative work to a halt to make a point and appease their leader. Worse, they are largely abdicating their duty to debate and consider legislative action, as they were elected to do.

This may affect South Florida directly. One of Biden’s recent nominations for the federal bench is attorney Detra Shaw-Wilder. The threatened blockade, the Herald reported, could doom her appointment despite her being backed by supporters from across the political spectrum, including from the conservative Federalist Society and the Cuban American Bar Association.

Lawyer Detra Shaw-Wilder, managing partner, at Kozyak Tropin and Throckmorton poses in her office in Coral Gables on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Lawyer Detra Shaw-Wilder, managing partner, at Kozyak Tropin and Throckmorton poses in her office in Coral Gables on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Shaw-Wilder was highly recommended by a nominating committee that Rubio himself handpicked, the Herald reported.

So what’s the hold up?

Politics being put above merit.

Shaw-Wilder’s appointment has been pending since March. Even before Trump’s guilty verdict, Scott and Rubio had said they would not move forward with her confirmation, accusing the White House of not properly consulting with them. The Biden administration denies that and an official told the Herald her name was floated to both senators as far back as July 2022.

Any miscommunication between he White House and Florida’s senators should be addressed. The White House has indicated to Scott and Rubio that it could negotiate a package of federal judicial nominees including Shaw-Wilder for the opening in Miami and others for the Middle District of Florida. Before Trump’s conviction, Scott said he was open to that compromise in an interview with the Herald last week.

Reached by the Herald Editorial Board on Thursday, Scott’s office said he “stands by his comments in both the joint statement with Sen. Lee and his interview last week with the Miami Herald.”

The timing of the hiccup in Shaw-Wilder’s nomination raises questions, especially when three South Florida federal judge nominations went through in late February. One of the appointees was the nephew of one of Rubio’s top donors, local billionaire Norman Braman.

This might be about Republicans placing as many obstacles for Biden. Probably weighing heavily on the GOP is that, in May, Biden got his 200th judicial nomination confirmed by the Senate, surpassing Trump’s confirmation pace during his presidency, though Trump had more impactful nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate courts, the Associated Press reported.

Control of federal courts is crucial. Rulings by federal judges on laws and policies can help change the course of the nation. Also important for many Republicans might be ensuring Trump doesn’t lose the nomination race to Biden.

If there’s a path to a compromise, as Scott hinted in his interview with the Herald, then Florida’s senators must come to the table and leave partisan warfare aside.

Click here to send the letter.

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