As One Filibustered Judicial Nominee Is Confirmed, Reid Moves to Force Vote on Another

February 15, 2012

by Nicole Flatow

After a final effort to exploit Adalberto Jose Jordán’s judicial nomination for political capital, the Senate confirmed Jordán Wednesday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Jordán, who was rated unanimously well qualified by the American Bar Association and cleared the Judiciary Committee with unanimous support, has been pending on the Senate floor since before the December recess, but the Senate opted not to schedule a vote on his nomination and fill an empty seat considered a judicial emergency.

Fed up with the persistent inaction on consensus judicial nominees like Jordán, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion Thursday to force a vote on his nomination, and an overwhelming majority of senators voted in favor of the motion. But Sen. Rand Paul, seeking to gain leverage for an unrelated proposal to cut off aid to Egypt until detainees are released, exploited a procedural rule and refused to consent to a vote before the permitted 30 hours for “debate” had lapsed.

While the Senate waited for the 30 hours to elapse, several other pieces of legislation were held up.

“Paul wants to send a message to his colleagues about Egypt and American foreign policy -- and he's doing it by adding one wrong on top of another,” wrote Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank said of the hold-up:

Congressional staffers I checked with couldn’t recall a similar instance of blocking a confirmation even after a filibuster had failed. This would seem to be a unique humiliation for a man hailed by the Hispanic National Bar Association because of “the positive message this nomination sends to the Latino community.

Two days later, the Senate confirmed Jordán just as overwhelmingly as they had voted to end the filibuster of his nomination, by a vote of 94-5.

That was the eighth time Reid was forced to take the extreme measure of filing a motion for cloture to force a vote on one of President Obama's judicial nominees. And just following Jordán’s confirmation vote, Reid added the ninth.

Reid has now moved to force a vote on federal prosecutor Jesse Furman, another consensus nominee who was approved by the Judiciary Committee for a seat on the Southern District of New York without opposition.

Filibusters of trial court-level judicial nominees were particularly rare before President Obama took office. But as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained this week, the motion to file cloture and end a filibuster is “a procedure that while once extraordinary is now commonplace out of necessity.”

“It's just simply delay tactics,” he said, “and they're shameful.”

There are now 84 vacancies on the federal courts -- almost double the rate of vacancies by this point in President George W. Bush's first term. To learn more about the vacancy crisis and follow developments, visit JudicialNominations.org