A recent Associated Press article notes that Senate Republicans have remained steadfast in their determination to stall the administration's judicial picks, which has resulted in a situation where the administration has "put fewer people on the bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his presidency." The AP notes that "there are 45 nominees awaiting action, two for nearly 13 months."
Yesterday, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein noted that although the administration has voiced anger over Republican obstructionism "even sympathetic observers acknowledge that the president is largely powerless (if not helpless) on the matter." Stein maintains, "That's because both he and allies in Congress simply lack the tools to force the Republican Party's hand."
In a piece for the Constitutional Accountability Center's Text & History blog, Judith E. Schaeffer writes that even the president's least controversial nominees - and he has few that have drawn serious controversy - have been victims of the obstruction. Schaeffer notes that in early spring Kimberly Mueller was nominated to fill a vacant seat on the Eastern District of California "and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 6 without opposition, yet is languishing in Senate limbo, still waiting for a confirmation on the Senate floor."
Schaeffer says Mueller is "about as uncontroversial as judicial nominees get," citing her sterling legal credentials, including the ABA's top rating and a stint as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in California.
Schaeffer blasts the Senate Republican's tactics, writing:
So why is Kimberly Mueller still waiting for a vote? The answer is simple, and unacceptable. Throughout the Obama presidency, Senate Republicans have taken judicial obstructionism to an entirely new level, abusing the Senate's procedural rules to block even the most uncontroversial of the President's judicial nominees and giving new meaning to the phrase "Just Say No." Mueller is one of many of these new pawns in this obstructionist game, which Republicans are playing to increase the backlog of nominees on the Senate floor and keep President Obama from filling judicial vacancies. This rank, hyper-partisanship diminishes the ability of our federal courts to dispense justice fairly and timely, and should concern every American, no matter his or her political leanings.
As noted here yesterday, President Obama has urged the Senate to cease with the delays, and recently Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has joined that call.
In article for The Huffington Post, ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson wrote, "The vacancies on the federal bench will continue to grow, considering the glacial pace at which the Senate is moving on the president's judicial selections, resulting in a judicial system that is already overburdened coming to a grinding halt."
To follow the growing crisis on the federal bench, visit the ACS web-based project, JudicialNominations.org, which includes an interactive map detailing where the vacancies are and how long nominees have languished. Updates from JudicialNominations.org are available via its Facebook page.