Just before the Senate went into its Presidents Day recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the chamber would take up the confirmation vote for Margo Kitsy Brodie to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York when they returned this coming Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved her confirmation in October. Monday will mark the 265th day since her nominations.
Before leaving the floor, Reid lamented the Republican obstruction of judicial nominations. Reid assured the Senate that the coming work period would focus on judges and continued, “We will have the fight on the judges ourselves because they are recommendations we make to the President. But these are the President's nominations and he should have the right to have these people working in his administration.” There are currently 21 confirmations waiting for a floor vote, 16 of which received unanimous committee support.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) overcame a filibuster of Adalberto Jose Jordán to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and secured his confirmation by a vote of 94-5. Reid had filed a motion to invoke cloture and force a vote on his nomination, and senators approved the motion 89-5. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), seeking to gain leverage for an unrelated proposal to cut off aid to Egypt until American detainees are released, exploited a procedural rule and refused to consent to a vote before the permitted 30 hours for “debate” had lapsed. One hundred and ninety seven days elapsed between his nomination and confirmation.
Just after the vote that finally confirmed Jordán, Reid filed a motion to invoke cloture on another nominee, federal prosecutor Jesse Furman, to be a judge on the Southern District of New York. Before the vote to invoke cloture, Furman opponents dropped their opposition and permitted an up-or-down vote. His nomination was confirmed 62-34. When in committee, Furman’s confirmation received unanimous support from all members, both Democrats and Republicans. Among the 34 senators to vote against him on the Senate floor were Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), all Senate Judiciary Committee members who had previously not opposed his confirmation.
Following the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “I commend the Majority Leader for pressing forward to obtain a vote on the nomination of Jesse Furman, finally bringing to an end the 5-month Republican filibuster of this nomination. It should not have taken five months and the filing of a cloture petition to secure a vote on this superbly qualified, consensus nominee.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing Wednesday for one circuit court and three district court nominees. The next day, the committee held over the nomination of one circuit court nominee and reported out four district court nominees, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voting in the negative on each.
Finally, the president continues to nominate federal judges, especially those who would fill judicial emergencies. He nominated Jill A. Pryor, an Atlanta-based litigator, to fill a judicial emergency on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In January, Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss indicated that they support her nomination to the federal judiciary. He also nominated Elissa F. Cadish to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Paul William Grimm to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and Mark E. Walker to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
With the election year underway and 103 current and future vacancies plaguing the federal courts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is making headway in an aggressive push to force votes on long-pending judicial nominees.
On Wednesday, he successfully pushed through the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordán to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, even as Sen. Rand Paul forced the 30 hours of debate to elapse before the final vote to confirm Jordán 94-5.
And on Thursday night, Reid was successful in securing confirmation of another nominee, Jesse Furman, to the Southern District of New York. Reid filed a motion to invoke cloture on his nomination Wednesday, but the Senate opted not to vote on the cloture motion, and to simply hold an up-or-down vote.
Both Jordán and Furman are consensus nominees -- both were approved by the Judiciary Committee with absolutely no opposition, and both have been ripe for an immediate vote since before the Senate left for the winter recess.
They are just two examples of the many highly qualified consensus nominees who have been pending for months on the Senate calendar.
This morning, The New York Times’ Gail Collins adds to the commentary on Adalberto Jose Jordán’s long and obstruction-filled road to confirmation in a facetious column describing her “shock” at Congress’ deep unpopularity. And she means deep unpopularity. As in, “Unpopular like the Ebola virus, or zombies. Held in near-universal contempt, like TV shows about hoarders with dead cats in their kitchens.”
Jordan’s nomination, she writes, is the latest example of Congress’ so-called “bipartisan cooperation.” She explains:
This week, the Senate confirmed Judge Adalberto Jose Jordan to a seat on the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. A visitor from another country might not have appreciated the proportions of this achievement, given the fact that Jordan, who was born in Cuba and who once clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor, had no discernible opposition.
But Americans ought to have a better grasp of how the Senate works. The nomination’s progress had long been thwarted by Mike Lee, a freshman Republican from Utah, who has decided to hold up every single White House appointment to anything out of pique over ... well, it doesn’t really matter. When you’re a senator, you get to do that kind of thing.
This forced the majority leader, Harry Reid, to get 60 votes to move Judge Jordan forward, which is never all that easy. Then there was further delay thanks to Rand Paul, a freshman from Kentucky, who stopped action for as long as possible because he was disturbed about foreign aid to Egypt.
All that is forgotten now. The nomination was approved, 94 to 5, only 125 days after it was unanimously O.K.’d by the Judiciary Committee. Whiners in the White House pointed out that when George W. Bush was president, circuit court nominations got to a floor vote in an average of 28 days.
No matter. Good work, Senate! Only 17 more long-pending judicial nominations to go!
In an effort to move another one of those long-pending nominations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion yesterday to force a vote on federal prosecutor Jesse Furman, nominated to a trial court seat in the Southern District of New York.
Around the country, an alarming rate of vacancies on our federal courts is leading to “exasperating delays for all parties involved,” writes former U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Judge Timothy K. Lewis in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“As a former federal judge, I know the toll this persistently high vacancy rate takes on our courts,” writes Lewis, who is now counsel at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis. “Federal judges have reported being forced to handle criminal caseloads more than double what they confronted just two years ago. This, in turn, is limiting the access people have to the judicial system.”
Much of the problem is caused by unprecedented Senate obstruction – there are now 41 judicial nominees awaiting Senate action and some Republicans are threatening to hold up votes on every nominee. But in Pennsylvania, Lewis notes, there is a different problem: There are six vacancies on Pennsylvania’s district courts, and none of them have a nominee. Before the president can make a nomination, the state’s senators must submit names for the White House’s consideration, and Pennsylvania’s senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, have not yet done so.
“So long as the senators do not submit names, the process cannot move forward - and the seats remain empty,” Lewis writes. “Casey and Toomey have a good working relationship, and they have indicated that they are working on identifying appropriate judicial nominees. But it is long past time that they make this issue a higher priority.”