The debt ceiling negotiations aren’t the only crisis in Washington, writes Jonathan Bernstein in The Washington Post. The other “unseen crisis” is Republican obstruction of judicial nominees.
“I’d been fairly optimistic about the compromise that Senators struck at the beginning of the 112th Congress in January, in which Republicans agreed to ease up on obstruction in exchange for Democratic agreement to leave formal rules surrounding filibusters and cloture alone,” he writes. “It appears, however, that the deal has now broken down.”
He notes that the number of confirmations over the last two months has continually dropped, with no confirmation votes yet in July. The average rate of confirmations since February has been a bit less than one confirmation a week, “not enough to clear up the backlog; it’s not really even enough to keep up with new openings.”
Bernstein calls on Democrats to “force the issue” by “fully exploiting their own options under current Senate rules, and by threatening to change those rules if necessary.” He continues:
A full bench is important. It’s important for ordinary citizens, because empty courtrooms mean delayed justice. And it’s important politically; it’s well within the rights of Democrats to insist on the legitimate spoils of winning the White House and (still, don’t forget) a majority in the Senate. This doesn’t get any easier when the election gets closer; it’s time for action on judges right now.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy also lamented Republicans’ obstruction of judicial nominees earlier this week.
“Before the Memorial Day recess I urged that the Senate take up and vote on the many consensus judicial nominations then on the calendar, as it traditionally has done before a recess. Republican Senators would not agree to consider a single one,” he said. “In June, I again urged the Senate to take steps to address the judicial needs of the American people by confirming the many qualified, consensus judicial nominations reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee. However, Republicans would consent to vote on only four judicial nominations during that month.”
Visit JudicialNominations.org to learn more about the judicial vacancy crisis and follow developments.