Michael Boggs, nominated to serve on a district court in Georgia as part of a compromise with the state's two Republican senators, explained that as a state representative he wrestled with whether to vote his conscience or reflect the will of his conservative district. In response to tough questioning from the panel's Democratic majority, he explained, and in some cases apologized for, votes that liberal and civil rights groups say ought to disqualify him.
The former two-term state legislator, now a Georgia appeals court judge, said he regretted his vote on an amendment that required doctors to disclose the number of abortions they performed. The measure was "ill-conceived" and represented a "public safety risk," he said.
He left his position on same-sex marriage unclear, saying his previous opposition "may or may not have changed."
And he described as "agonizing" the decision of whether to reinstate a version of the state flag that included the Confederate stars and bars.
"On that issue particularly, the overwhelming majority of constituents in my one county that I represented ... desired that Georgians be permitted an opportunity to vote on whether Georgia changed the flag," he said. "That's why I cast the vote the way I did."
Democrats who hold the key to Boggs' fate sounded skeptical of his answers. Sen.
"So I have to make a judgment whether you mean what you say," she said. "For my vote I have to have certainty. And I don't know quite how to get it in view of this record."
"He clearly regrets a lot of what he did as a state legislator," said Sen.
Boggs was one of a slate of picks for the federal bench in Georgia offered by the president after negotiations with Republican Sens.
By virtue of what's called the "blue slip" procedure, senators have the ability to block consideration of judicial nominees from their states.
After Tuesday's hearing, senators are expected to send written questions to Boggs on a range of issues before the Judiciary Committee votes on his nomination. Because the panel's eight Republican members are expected to support him, he would need votes from two of the 10 Democrats on the panel to advance his nomination to the full
But even if he gains endorsement of the committee, Senate Majority Leader