(Photo: SXC.)

By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The first Cuban-born judge has been confirmed to sit on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, an important federal bench for Florida, Georgia and Alabama.


It was a long process, delayed for no better reason than partisan politics. The foot-dragging on Adalberto Jose Jordan’s nomination was so pronounced and so unnecessary that Washington Post political writer Dana Milbank was moved to ask if Republicans have a death wish when it comes to Latino voters — or as he put it, un impulso suicida when relating to the “fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation.”

The Senate confirmed Jordan’s nomination on Wednesday, 94-5. As the lopsided vote shows, there was no question of Jordan’s merits. Appointed by President Obama, he was supported by his fellow Cuban-American, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, and also Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Jordan’s biography is inspiring: He fled Cuba with his parents at age 6, earned a law degree from the University of Miami and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Since 1999, he’s been a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, based in Miami.

But Jordan’s credentials were not the point. Neither was the need to fill a vacancy on the federal bench.

No, one Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, was in a snit over the fact that Obama had used his power of recess appointments to put Richard Cordray in charge, in January, of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after it had become clear that some Republicans would have preferred if the new agency were never allowed to actually begin functioning.

Lee’s objection managed to delay things until Monday night, when Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called for a cloture vote, a bid for at least 60 votes to break Lee’s hold on the process. Reid got that, in an 89-5 vote.

Now it was Sen. Rand Paul’s turn to stall the appointment. The Kentucky Republican and tea party favorite held up a final vote because he wanted senators to hear a highway funding bill that, for no logically connected reason, would have cancelled foreign aid to Egypt.

Paul is understandably upset about Egypt’s recent detention of 19 Americans — non-governmental workers accused of illegally receiving foreign money. But to take it out on Jordan?  That can’t be good politics for a party that hopes to court Hispanic voters. And he was “also evidently delaying debate and consideration of jobs-related legislation. How dysfunctional is that?” said legal analyst Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic.

Paul’s objection triggered a procedure that delayed a final vote for 30 hours — until Wednesday.

As Milbank writes, the GOP just can’t seem to help itself when showing disrespect to the Latino electorate:

The party’s presidential candidates have done long-term damage by vowing opposition to the DREAM Act (legalization for illegal immigrants who serve in the armed forces) and by trying to paint each other as too soft on immigration (highlighted by Herman Cain’s call for a lethal electric fence). Rubio and Jeb Bush have called for an end to what Rubio called “harsh and intolerable” rhetoric.

The Hispanic population is expected to double — to 30 percent of the United States population — in the coming decades. So if Latinos continue to vote 2-to-1 for Democrats, the Republican Party will become irrelevant. Zoltan Hajnal of the University of California, San Diego, an authority on racial politics, sees a parallel with the Republicans’ alienation of African Americans in the 1960s. “The image of the party is pretty clear to most Latinos,” he said, “and once party images are built, they get passed on from parent to child in a process that’s very resistant to change.”

The party simply can’t afford self-inflicted wounds such as the Jordan debacle. “He’s an integral part of our community,” Rubio told his colleagues.

The five senators opposing Jordan’s confirmation in Wednesday’s vote? David Vitter, Roy Blunt, Pat Toomey, Lee and Paul.