President Obama

  • April 9, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Though the Senate finally confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz to a seat on the federal appellate court bench, one should hardly take that as a sign that the Republican-led band of obstructionists is ready to alter its agenda of delaying judicial nominations.

    Shwartz was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by a vote of 64 – 34. She was re-nominated earlier this year by President Obama. As Judging The Environment notes, Shwartz was originally nominated by Obama in fall 2011.

    ACS President Caroline Fredrickson, while applauding the confirmation of Shwartz, a federal magistrate judge in Newark, N.J., said the process was “all too typical for the president’s judicial nominee, and that must change.” She continued, “Filling our benches must become and remain a priority for the Senate so people can have faith in our system to guarantee every American fair and swift justice.”

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also noted the snails’ pace of confirmation for judges. Shwartz “should not have been delayed for more than a year,” he said in a statement. “Sadly, this is not an isolated case but one in a steady pattern of obstruction.”

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, before the vote took place, noted that nearly 400 days had passed since Shwartz’s second hearing.

    Carney said, “After her expected confirmation, there will still be 14 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes. Of these 14, 13 were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously, and the five nominees would fill judicial emergencies. They have been waiting on the Senate floor for an average of 67 days for a vote. That’s nearly twice as long as President’s Bush’s judicial nominees.”

  • April 9, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Pushing back against Republican-led efforts in Congress to greatly hobble the National Labor Relations Board, President Obama is urging swift confirmation of three individuals to the five-member board.

    Senate Republicans have strived to keep the president from filling vacancies on the NLRB, which is charged with protecting workers’ rights. The NLRB must have three members to take any action and two of the current members were appointed via the recess appointments process, which a federal appeals court earlier this year said was done in an unconstitutional manner. This week the Republican-led House of Representatives is considering a measure that would shutter the NLRB until it has three members it considers legitimate. Republican senators have sought to keep a pro-corporate tilt to the NLRB or make it inoperative.

    In January 2012, Obama appointed Richard Griffin and Sharon Block to the NLRB during a congressional break. But then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the president’s recess appointments violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. The ruling in Canning v. NLRB has been widely blasted as running counter to federal court precedent upholding recess appointments and more than a century of recess appointments made by other presidents. The NLRB has said it will appeal the D.C. Circuit’s opinion to the Supreme Court. Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe in a column for The New York Times argued that Obama’s recess appointments passed constitutional muster, saying the Constitution clearly reserves “the authority the president needs to carry out his basic duties ….”

    The president, however, is seeking to keep the NLRB alive during the appeals process. Obama re-nominated NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, a Democrat, and two Republicans, Harry I. Johnson III and Philip A. Miscimarra, The Associated Press reports. Earlier this year, Obama nominated Democrats Block and Griffin to full terms on the NLRB.

    In announcing today’s nominees, Obama noted that the NLRB “plays a vital role in our efforts to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. With these nominations there will be five nominees to the NLRB, both Republicans and Democrats, awaiting Senate confirmation. I urge the Senate to confirm them swiftly so that this bipartisan board can continue its important work on behalf of the American people.”  

    AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka lauded the president’s action saying, “For America’s workers, business and the promotion of healthy commerce, putting forward a full, bipartisan package of nominees to the NLRB is the right thing to do.”

    Although the nominees include two who do not share the AFL-CIO’s staunch support of workers’ rights, Trumka said the “labor movement understands that when the NLRB is not at full strength and cannot enforce its orders, America’s economy falls out of balance, as it is today with record inequality and a shrinking middle class.”

  • April 8, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Senators will finally get around to considering a couple of judicial nominations this week, which will remind anyone paying attention of the ongoing intransigence of an increasingly conservative Republican Party.

    The Senate will consider the nomination of Judge Patty Shwartz to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing on the nomination of Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan (pictured) to one of the four vacant seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

    The Republican obstructionists in the Senate, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-K.Y.), have already derailed one of President Obama’s selections to the D.C. Circuit. Last month the obstructionists refused to allow an up-or-down vote on Caitlin Halligan, general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, to the D.C. Circuit. It was the second time the obstructionists blocked a floor vote on her nomination. Halligan subsequently withdrew her nomination. The D.C. Circuit, hearings some of the most important constitutional cases in the country and currently has a right-wing majority. The few obstructionists who were willing to give reasons for scuttling Halligan’s nomination were incredibly flimsy. The truth is that McConnell and his band of obstructionists like the make-up of the D.C. Circuit, don’t want it to change, and will very likely continue to try to keep vacancies on the Circuit in hopes that they’ll be able to resume seeding all the Circuits with judges who are shills for corporate interests.

    Some beltway pundits like to report that the current obstructionism is nothing particularly new and that both parties are to blame, which is incomplete. Closer to reality is that the Republican Party is a far more conservative party, one devoted largely to coddling the nation’s superrich. The nation’s superwealthy have enjoyed the status quo -- where nothing much on Capitol Hill gets done.

    In an enjoyable article that roams a bit, Salon’s Alex Pareene explores some of the “awful” aspects of the Senate and blasts some of the beltway punditry, especially those who idealize the Senate as a place where Republicans and Democrats once got along splendidly, inspiring speeches were given and meaningful work accomplished.

    Pareene notes that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a ubiquitous figure on Sunday morning political talk shows recently took a shot at Sen. Rand Paul (R-K.Y.) for threatening a filibuster of gun-safety legislation. (Rand has promised a talking filibuster, similar to the one he launched last month to rail against the Obama administration’s explanation or lack thereof surrounding its use of drones to kill suspected terrorists – and almost inevitably lots of innocent people right along with them.)

    Pareene points out, McCain is in no place to grouse about the filibuster – he’s part of McConnell’s gang that has silently filibustered or seriously delayed many of the administration’s judicial nominations. (The federal bench has more than 80 vacancies, where they’ve hovered for much of the Obama’s presidency.)

  • March 22, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Senate obstructionists cemented another victory in their assault on the judiciary when Caitlin Halligan withdrew her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

    The band of obstructionists led by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y) has succeeded in keeping President Obama from confirming a nominee to the 11-judge appeals court that has only 7 active judges. As the Boston Globe noted recently the D.C. circuit court has the “worst vacancy rate in its history and higher than any other federal circuit court nationwide."

    ACS President Caroline Fredrickson blasted the obstructionists for delaying or blocking up-or-down votes on uncontroversial, qualified nominees.

    “The D.C. Circuit is far too important to be held hostage by Senate obstructionists, who are leading an assault on the federal judiciary,” Fredrickson said. “The American people deserve better. Republican senators won’t even allow up-or-down votes on too many nominations now. Not only is this undermining the ability for courts to dispense justice, but it goes against the spirit of our constitutional requirement for advise and consent.”

    As former chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Patricia M. Wald wrote for The Washington Post, the Court “hears the most complex, time-consuming, labyrinthine disputes over regulations with the greatest impact on ordinary Americans’ lives: clean air and water regulations, nuclear plant safety, health-care reform issues, insider trading and more.”

    But McConnell and his team of obstructionists are not concerned about the harm being done to the judiciary or to the American people who should be able to rely upon a fully and effectively functioning federal bench. The obstructionists are instead focused on elections down the road, and keeping judicial vacancies open is part of their agenda. They want the federal bench to be packed with right-wing ideologues. Not even middle-of-the-road or moderate judges will do. Although Obama’s nominees have been a diverse lot, very few have been liberals.

     

  • March 14, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    President Obama urged Republican senators to stop holding up his judicial nominations earlier this week, but according to The Huffington Post the president “appears to have gotten a cool reception.”

    This is disheartening, but hardly surprising. As noted here frequently, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) has led an assault on the federal judiciary, by stalling for months or effectively filibustering many of the president’s judicial selections. Senators have employed numerous tactics under McConnell to slow or kill numerous judicial nominations thereby leading to a high vacancy rate on the federal bench. The Constitutional Accountability Center’s Judith E. Schaeffer noted today that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member, again delayed a vote on the nomination of Jane Kelly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Citing numbers from People For the American Way, she notes that “with only five exceptions” Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have used a procedural tactic that allows them to delay a scheduled vote on a nominee.

    Other judicial nominees have dropped out of the confirmation process because of the delaying tactics. The Senate this week confirmed Richard Taranto to a seat on the federal appeals court bench nearly a year and a half after he was nominated.

    These stalling tactics are used far too often by the Republican obstructionists, including the use of the 60-vote majority -- or the threat of it -- to allow for up-or-down votes on too many of the president’s judicial nominations.

    So it is laughable – or galling – to hear Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) tell The Huffington Post reporter that as he understands it, his party has only blocked “two judges.” (He’s referring to Caitlin Halligan and Goodwin Liu.)

    Senate Republicans regardless of their loopy claims to the contrary are bent on dragging their feet on the president’s judicial nominations, while vacancies on the federal bench grow as do caseloads of individual judges. Moran knows that but he’s apparently not above dissembling on the matter.