(CNSNews.com) – The Senate voted to end debate and move to a final vote on President Obama’s first judicial nominee, former ACORN fundraiser Judge David F. Hamilton, who disallowed invoking Jesus' name in prayers in the Indiana Legislature. Ten Republicans voted to allow a floor vote on Hamilton's nomination, thus assuring his confirmation.
Hamilton, nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, won a 70-29 cloture vote. All 29 who voted against cloture were Republicans. while 10 Republicans joined with all 60 Senate Democrats to vote for cloture and allow the confirmation vote to proceed. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchiso (R.-Tex.) did not vote on the cloture motion.
The 10 Republicans who joined the majority Democrats in voting for cloture were Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Olympia Snow (R-Me.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
Lugar represents Indiana, where Hamilton has served as a federal district judge since 1994.
According to the questionnaire he completed for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hamilton began his career in Philadelphia, Pa., as a fundraiser for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and also was a board-member for the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1987 and 1988.
That career history, along several of his district court decisions, has drawn criticism from Republicans, who asked for a second Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination in April, and then unanimously voted against reporting him to the Senate floor on a 12-7 party line vote.
Ahead of the second hearing, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) headed to the Senate floor to voice his opposition to the Hamilton nomination, saying he was “not impressed” with Obama’s picks so far.
“I had to come down to the Senate floor to speak so that the American people who are very concerned about this nomination will know that I and my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee are taking interest and are not just going to let this nomination sail through,” Inhofe said.
The cloture vote in the full Senate was delayed all summer, but at the beginning of November, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on the floor that he would “do judge David Hamilton” soon because he had “been waiting since April.”
The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who had indicated he would have filibustered the nomination had the cloture vote not forestalled that effort, reiterated what he said in a letter to his colleagues asking them to consider whether Hamilton was fit for the court of appeals.
In the Oct. 30 letter, Sessions cited several of Hamilton’s district court opinions, some of which were reversed by the same appeals court he is nominated to sit on, and said, “This is not the type of service that should be rewarded with a promotion. Indeed, this is one of those extraordinary circumstances where the President should be informed that his nominee is not qualified.”
The most contested case was Hinrichs v. Bosma, in which a group of Indiana residents including Anthony Hinrichs filed suit against the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, Rep. Brian Bosma, alleging that majority of prayers he had “allowed” were Christian, and that that violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Hamilton ordered Bosma not to allow the use of “sectarian prayers” or of “Christ’s name or title” in statehouse prayers. The case was brought by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, for which Hamilton had been a board member.
“Hamilton prohibited prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives that expressly mentioned Jesus Christ as violative of the Establishment Clause, yet he allowed prayers which mentioned Allah,” Sessions claimed.
In fact, Speaker Bosma blasted Hamilton at the time of the decision, labeling it an “intolerable” intrusion upon constitutionally protected speech.
“I find the Court's unprecedented decision disturbing in that it directs me, as Speaker, to advise people that they are prohibited from using ‘Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal’ when offering the invocation in the Indiana House of Representatives. It is intolerable that a court in this free society would ask a person to censor the prayer they offer in the tradition of their faith.”
But in a statement on the Senate floor Monday, however, Republican Sen. Lugar, who has vocally supported Hamilton’s nomination, dismissed Sessions interpretation of the Bosma case as partisan and reductionist.
“Another charge levied is that Judge Hamilton prohibited public prayers involving Jesus Christ but allowed prayers invoking Allah. However, Judge Hamilton did not say, as some suggest, that prayers in the Indiana Legislature to ‘Allah’ as the Muslim deity were permissible while prayers to Jesus Christ were not,” Lugar said.
“The confirmation process is often accompanied by the same over-simplifications and distortions that are disturbing even in campaigns for offices that are, in fact, political,” Lugar said.
Sessions, meanwhile, has admitted he would not have the votes for the filibuster on cloture, or for the actual confirmation vote.