The Senate is expected to vote shortly after noon today on whether to move ahead with the full debate on the nomination of John "Jack" McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.
The public got a preview of any debate Tuesday when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke on the Senate floor against the nomination of McConnell, an attorney with Motley Rice who made -- and continues to make -- millions from the state tobacco lawsuit, is a major political contributor across the nation -- even in North Dakota -- and who in his public statements demonstrates judicial intemperance. Cornyn:
I am sorry to have to say this, but the hard truth is Mr. McConnell's record--which I will describe in a moment--is one of not upholding the rule of law but perverting the rule of law, ignoring the responsibilities he had to his client, and manipulating those ethical standards in order to enrich himself and his law partners.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, rose in defense of McConnell's nomination, but only after excoriating Republicans for delaying action on President Obama's judicial nominees. Leahy challenged Cornyn's assertion that McConnell had deceived the committee during the confirmation procedures, and praised the trial lawyer's dedication:
Some oppose him because he successfully represented plaintiffs, including the State of Rhode Island itself, in lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers. Some here in the Senate may support the lead paint industry. That is their right. I support those who want to go after the people who poison children. That is what Mr. McConnell did. But nobody should oppose Mr. McConnell for doing what lawyers do and vigorously representing his clients in those lawsuits.
It's a shock to see a Senate chairman so blithely accusing U.S. manufacturers of "poisoning" children. In any case, even if you admire McConnell's partnership with then Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in ginning up a public nuisance complaint against the paint companies, it hardly reflects a mindset or legal experience befitting a judicial appointment.
We have The Congressional Record's account of the Cornyn and Leahy exchanges here.