Health care opponents target Utah judgeship in latest salvo

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 4, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Some conservatives are suggesting that President Barack Obama may have nominated a Utah man to a federal judgeship to buy the health care vote of his brother, a Democratic Congressman.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., on Thursday called for an "independent investigation" into the nomination during an appearance on Fox News.

“What in the world is going on in the White House?” she said on CNN on Wednesday. “Because today, the president offered a judgeship to the brother of a member of Congress. Tonight, the president has that same member of Congress at the White House pressuring him to change his vote on health care. We really need to have an independent investigation into this matter, because we've seen the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the union loophole and now the big question is, is the White House trading health care votes for judgeships?”

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin said the White House was either stupid or corrupt.

“Let us consider the possibility, for a brief moment, that it is merely coincidence,” Malkin said of Obama’s nomination of Scott Matheson to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at the same time Obama is trying to convince his brother, Rep. Jim. Matheson, D-Utah, to switch from a “no” vote to a “yes” on health care.

“Is the White House so fantastically blind and tone-deaf that it failed to detect the blood-red flags and blaring alarm bells that Scott Matheson’s judicial nomination would raise coming on the very day President Obama is wooing his brother, Jim?

“Incorrigibly corrupt or incorrigibly stupid. Take your pick.”

Rep. Matheson’s office has rejected any suggestion of a quid pro quo. After voting against the health care legislation in the House, Matheson is now undecided about how he’d vote on a Senate version heading his way.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also rejected it Thursday, noting that Scott Matheson was a respected lawyer who had bipartisan support in his home state.

“I think based on Mr. Matheson's ABA rating, based on Mr. Matheson's long legal resume, and based on the support he has from somebody important like Orrin Hatch, who has agreed to help shepherd his nomination through the Senate, I think it's a pretty silly argument,” Gibbs said.

In a statement, Republican Sen. Hatch praised the nomination.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also lauded the pick.

"Good choice, Mr. President. Good choice,” Chaffetz told the Deseret News. “I'm very pleased that President Obama selected Scott to serve as a judge on the federal bench. His distinguished scholarship as an attorney and law school dean, and his devoted public service to Utah and to the United States, make him an excellent nominee."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, also dismissed the accusation of a secret deal.

“Sen. Bennett has heard of all kinds of pressure being applied and offers being made to Democrats for votes on health care, but Scott Matheson’s nomination is not one of those because it has been in the works for a long time,” Bennett spokeswoman Tara DiJulio told Politico

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