by Nicole Flatow
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.
“Like the needless delay in Judge Jordan’s confirmation, the Republican filibuster of Jesse Furman, who by any traditional measure is a consensus nominee, is another example of the tactics that have all but paralyzed the Senate confirmation process and are damaging our Federal courts,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy in a statement this week. “It should not take five months and require a cloture motion for the Senate to proceed to vote on this nomination.”
Reid has now filed cloture nine times on President Obama’s nominees, turning with increasing frequency out of necessity to what was once a rare and extraordinary measure. Filibusters of district court nominees have been particularly rare, as senators typically accord great deference to the president’s selections.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy explains:
Consensus nominations like this to Federal district courts have nearly always been taken up and confirmed by the Senate within days or weeks, whether nominated by a Democratic or a Republican President. Certainly that was the approach taken by Senate Democrats when President Bush sent us consensus nominees. That is how we reduced vacancies in the presidential election years of 2004 and 2008 to the lowest levels in decades and how we confirmed 205 of President Bush’s judicial nominees in his first term. Yet, in an almost complete reversal of this approach, Mr. Furman’s nomination has been blocked by Senate Republicans for over five months, without reason or explanation.
Even after Jordán and Furman’s hard-won confirmations, there remain 20 other nominees on the Senate calendar ready for an immediate vote.
“It is the American people who pay the price for the Senate’s unnecessary and harmful delay in confirming judges to our Federal courts,” said Leahy. “When an injured plaintiff sues to help cover the cost of medical expenses, that plaintiff should not have to wait for years before a judge hears his or her case. When two small business owners disagree over a contract, they should not have to wait years for a court to resolve their dispute.”
Visit JudicialNominations.org to learn more about the vacancy crisis and follow developments.