by Jeremy Leaming
The Senate may soon vote on one of the 19 judicial nominations that were left pending before members recessed in August for electioneering. Even if it does take a bit of time to confirm a judicial nominee, the Senate still has a long way to go to fill a large number of vacanices on the federal bench, which were caused primarily by Senate Republicans' obstructionism.
Some continue to write that the Obama administration has failed to put forth enough nominations for the federal bench. But that’s merely reciting a right-wing or Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) talking point. It doesn’t add much anymore to the conversation. The Brookings Institution's Russell Wheeler noted earlier this year in a progress report on judicial nominations that while Obama, at that point in his presidency had made fewer district court nominations than Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he had also made more circuit court nominations.
The only point that matters is that the federal bench has a high number of vacancies – more than 80, and many of them are judicial emergencies – not because of the number of nominations made, but the number of nominations stalled. Moreover, as an unnamed White House aide told The Huffington Post, it doesn’t make a difference as to when the nominations are made, as long as the Senate continues to obstruct. (Yes, The Post piece cited also includes the lame line about Obama not nominating enough folks for the federal bench.)
The 19 pending nominees have already been run through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and are ready for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Regardless of the battle to reach a budget deal to avoid a so-called fiscal cliff, consideration of these nominees would not take much floor time if the Senate were properly functioning.
“There is no justification for holding up final Senate action on the 19 judicial nominations that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are pending on the Senate Executive Calendar,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a Nov. 30 statement. “President Obama has consistently reached across the aisle, consulted with home state senators from both parties and appointed moderate, well-qualified judicial nominees. It is time for the obstruction to end and for the Senate to complete action on these nominees so that they may serve the American people with further delay. Delay for delay’s sake is wrong and should end.”