Morning Memo: Burr continues to stonewall judicial nomination

Posted by John Frank on January 9, 2014 

A renewed effort this week by the White House to fill the nation’s longest-running federal district court judicial vacancy — a seat in the Eastern District of North Carolina — again has been met by an unexplained stonewall.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, has yet to submit his “blue slip,” the response needed to move the nomination onto the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda. The White House resubmitted Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination for the bench Monday.

Burr has yet to explain his inaction. In July 2009, he included May-Parker, a federal prosecutor in the 44-county Eastern District that stretches from Raleigh to the coast, on a short list for President Barack Obama to consider.

Obama first nominated May-Parker for the slot in June 2013, but Senate Judiciary agendas have been compiled, scheduled and heard without May-Parker’s nomination on any of them.

Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, has submitted her “blue slip” to put May-Parker’s nomination on the agenda.

Rachel Hicks, Burr’s spokeswoman, said this week that “Sen. Burr did submit multiple names for the Eastern District. However, it has always been his policy not to release or publicly discuss judicial recommendations made to the White House.”

The nomination of May-Parker in June was much heralded by civil rights advocates in the summer. If confirmed, she would make history as the first African-American federal district judge in the Eastern District. The seat has sat empty since Jan. 1, 2006.

*** Mike McIntyre’s exit may shift the state’s congressional delegation even further to the Republican side. Read about it and more below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology meets at 9 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building. Later in the day, it will move the meeting to SAS in Cary.

Gov. Pat McCrory did not issue a public calendar for Thursday.

THE JUDICIAL BACKSTORY -- The renewed focus on Burr’s inaction comes as the Obama administration moved forward this week on a judicial nominee in Florida, as outlined in a Huffington Post story Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, had initially supported the nomination of William Thomas to fill a long vacant slot on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. But the Obama administration pulled the name back this week after it became apparent that Rubio planned to block Thomas from being appointed.

McINTYRE RETIRES: After 18 years, U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton is retiring from Congress at the end of 2014, and the jockeying on both sides of the aisle to replace him has begun.

The move, which McIntyre announced Wednesday, ends speculation that the conservative Blue Dog Democrat would face another tough election this year and opens the door for Republicans to take another U.S. House seat in North Carolina. Already after McIntyre’s announcement on Wednesday, election prognosticators were moving the 7th Congressional District race into the Republican column. Republicans hold nine of the state’s 13 seats in Congress.

WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT: McIntyre didn’t always side with the White House but he received the praise of President Barack Obama on Wednesday. “In his 17 years representing the people of North Carolina in the U.S. Congress, Mike McIntyre has been a strong advocate for our men and women in uniform and a key voice on issues that shape the lives of Americans in rural communities,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “He’s also been an active participant in the annual National Prayer Breakfast – a reflection of his deep faith. Michelle and I thank Congressman McIntyre for his service, and we wish him, his wife Dee and their two sons the very best in the future.”

GOP JOCKEYING BEGINS -- FETZER BACKS WHITE: Meanwhile, Republican Woody White, a 44-year-old Wilmington attorney and chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners, confirmed Wednesday he is running for the 7th Congressional District seat and will challenge state Sen. David Rouzer of Johnston County in a GOP primary. That means Rouzer won’t have an easy road to the Republican nomination, despite almost defeating McIntyre in 2012.

White, who is also a former state senator, is lining up support from some prominent names in Republican circles, from the district’s 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano to former state party chairman and former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer and state Rep. Rick Catlin of New Hanover County, among others. Their support shows party leaders aren’t fully behind Rouzer and portends a heated primary for the Republican nod.

White said he has raised $65,000, with commitments for $150,000 more, and plans seven fundraisers in the next five weeks. Rouzer says he has $300,000 in the bank. Read more here.

RATING CHANGE: The Rothenberg Political Report changes McIntyre seat from toss-up to “safe Republican.” More here. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball moves seat from “leans Democratic” to “likely Republican.”

THE BUCK DOESN’T STOP WITH McCRORY: N&O columnist Barry Saunders takes a blistering look at Gov. Pat McCrory’s repeated statements blaming the prior administration for the Department of Health and Human Services problems.

He writes: “The thing to do in each instance is to acknowledge the mistake, apologize and set a corrective course.

“That’s what you and I would do. That’s not what our beloved governor does, though. Through his first year in office, McCrory has been unwilling to criticize or punish his appointees when they’ve made egregious errors – or himself for hiring them.” Read more here.

RELATED: Burlington Times News editorial – “Communication miscues at DHHS.” Read more here.

KAY HAGAN GETS A1 NEW YORK TIMES TREATMENT – 2 parties place political focus on inequality. The story starts: “Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who is up for re-election, is admonishing Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, says that her party’s thinking is “stale and old and doesn’t really address the magnitude of the problem.”

Further down: “In North Carolina, where Ms. Hagan is under attack from several Republican opponents trying to oust her, the state Democratic Party will release a memo this week highlighting what it says is “a long record of demeaning statements against those struggling to make ends meet” by Thom Tillis, the speaker of the State House, who is running against her.

“Those include his remarks about needing “to divide and conquer” people on public assistance and dismissing opposition to policies championed by North Carolina Republicans as “whining coming from losers.” After the Republican-led legislature there cut social service programs like unemployment, imposed new restrictions on abortion and put higher burdens on voters, protests broke out in Raleigh.” Read more here.

STATE EDUCATION BOARD LOOKS TO DELAY COMMON CORE TESTING: The State Board of Education is leaning toward keeping state-written standardized tests two more years, giving the board time to build public and legislative support for a new brand of testing.

The board doesn’t plan to vote this month on the state Department of Public Instruction’s recommendation to keep the state-produced tests at least through the 2015-16 school year. But members said Wednesday that they liked the idea of postponing selection of new tests and asking a new advisory group for suggestions. Board Chairman Bill Cobey asked DPI staff to develop a formal proposal for creating the advisory group. Read more here.

NAACP TO AMEND VOTER LAWSUIT: The N.C. chapter of the NAACP amended its lawsuit against the state’s new election law this week to include new claims challenging the provision eliminating pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds, make explicit that Latinos are also being disadvantaged and suggest that it violates the 24th amendment against poll taxes. The NAACP and its partners will hold a conference call Thursday to discuss the lawsuit.

ENERGY POLICY COUNCIL GETS RESTARTED: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the chairman of the newly reconstituted Energy Policy Council, is getting to work. He set a meeting schedule Wednesday for the group, which lawmakers tasked with making recommendations on energy exploration and drilling in the state. The first meeting is Jan. 15 in room 1210 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to attend.

The other meetings this year are tentatively scheduled for March 19, May 21, July 16, Sept, 17 and Nov. 19.

HEADLINE FUN – APODACA TAKES ON TOPLESS WOMEN: From the Asheville Citizen-Times -- The Chamber of Commerce wants lawmakers this year to take on the issue of topless woman downtown in response to complaints from businesses.

Asheville City Council has said it can do nothing to stop the practice, and the annual topless rallies held at Pack Square, because of state law. Chamber President Kit Cramer said Wednesday she doesn’t care who fixes the problem, as long as it gets done. She has asked Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca, the chair of the powerful Rules Committee, to handle the matter. Read more here.

ROLL CALL NOTES HOW TILLIS IS AVOIDING THE POLITICIAN LABEL: “Of course it’s not a surprise, considering that legislation coming out of the North Carolina Legislature has been a rallying point for the Democrats, who hope to keep the electorate focused on Tillis’s voting and leadership record throughout the duration of the Senate race.” Read more here.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT DECISION WOULD FALL TO McCRORY: If Congress passes a new law that clears the way for North Carolina’s jobless to once again receive federally funded extended unemployment benefits, it’s not a slam dunk that the state would agree to go along.

Members of the state legislature’s joint oversight committee on unemployment insurance were told at a hearing Wednesday that there would be logistical and financial implications to making the benefits available to unemployed workers who exhaust their state-funded benefits.

The decision on making those extended benefits available would be up to Gov. Pat McCrory.

NO COMMENT: McCrory, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis all declined to take a position on whether the state should restart federal unemployment benefits. Read more here.

CHARLOTTE INVITED TO BID ON RNC 2016 CONVENTION: The Republican National Committee has invited Charlotte to bid on its 2016 political convention, and Mayor Patrick Cannon said Wednesday that he will meet with city staff members to discuss whether Charlotte should submit a proposal. Read more here.

WATT SEAT ELECTION DATE FORCES CHOICE: By putting the election to fill former U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s seat on the same schedule as the 2014 election, Gov. Pat McCrory is forcing some to make a decision – notably the handful of state lawmakers vying for the spot.

State Sen. Malcolm Graham announced Wednesday he wouldn’t seek re-election in order to focus on his congressional race. “It has truly been an honor serving in this capacity for 5 terms,” he said in a statement. “As I have been for most of my career, I remain dedicated to making North Carolina and Mecklenburg County a great place to live, work and play. To that end, I will be seeking election to the United States 12th Congressional District seat ...”

MARK HARRIS CAMPAIGN HIRES POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Anna Beavon Gravely is tasked with developing a 100-county political network and building grassroots support for Rev. Mark Harris’ U.S. Senate bid. The campaign announced Gravely’s hire Thursday.

Her experience includes communications and operations for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization with strong roots in North Carolina. She also worked with the N.C. Family Policy Council.

In a statement, Harris praised Gravely, calling her “one of the most respected field operatives involved in North Carolina politics.” “Anna Beavon is experienced and knowledgeable in political organization, grassroots mobilization, and GOTV functions,” he continued. “I am thrilled she is joining my campaign team as we continue to be the most focused and disciplined force in this race.”

Gravely was the student body president at Meredith College in 2011. She is a Rocky Mount native.

PERSONNEL FILE: Patrick Sebastian, the nephew of Gov. Pat McCrory, is now running the campaign of Georgia U.S. Rep Rep. Phil Gingrey’s U.S. Senate campaign. He inherits a troubled campaign ( according to The Hill) as Gingrey faces seven other Republican challengers trying to replace retire Sen. Saxby Chambliss. (Post corrected from earlier version.)

The N.C. Senate Democratic Caucus named Ford Porter as Caucus Director. Porter previously served as communications director on the legislative staff of Senate Democratic leader Martin Nesbitt and previously as press secretary for the Walter Dalton’s gubernatorial campaign.

QUICK HITS ---

#NCPOL Twitterati get a shout out. Read more here.

Michael Bitzer, North Carolina political expert and bow-tie aficionado, gets a big promotion. Read more here.

ICYMI, the UNC-TV response to airing Bill Moyers documentary. Read more here.

Potential risks for teachers who give up tenure. Read more here.

--Staff writers Anne Blythe and Renee Schoof contributed to this report.

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