Obama Urges Swift Confirmation of Judicial Nominees

July 27, 2010

President Barack Obama today urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others in the Senate to fill the vacancies "that continue to plague our judiciary."

"Right now, we've got nominees who've been waiting up to eight months to be confirmed as judges," Obama said in the Rose Garden. 

Most of these nominees have been voted out of committee by large majorities and "[b]oth Democrats and Republicans agreed they were qualified to serve," Obama said.

"Nevertheless," Obama continued, "some in the minority have used parliamentary procedures time and again to deny them a vote in the full Senate."

Reform of the parliamentary procedure that "infiltrates policy discussion at every step," the filibuster rule, may be imminent, The Huffington Post reports. Democratic candidates and sitting senators say a measure reforming rules allowing silent filibusters that force a supermajority vote may be the first item on which senators vote in 2011.

"What was recently considered impossible is now looking inevitable," The Huffington Post reports.

A National Public Radio report adds, "confirmations are one area where Senate rules give Republicans enough power to have a substantial impact. Unless Republicans grant unanimous consent, senators must spend days debating a judicial nominee before a vote. That's true even without a filibuster."

Obama's remarks followed a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties during which they discussed legislation on climate change and job creation, in addition to confirmation of judicial nominees.

The inclusion of judicial nominations in his address signals a possible shift in approach for Obama, The Blog of the Legal Times suggests, noting that Obama has rarely raised the issue in public, "focusing instead on legislative priorities such as health care and financial regulation."

Since Obama took office, he has nominated 86 people for federal judgeships, of which 37 have been confirmed, according to the Associated Press. There are now about 100 vacancies on the federal bench.

"At this point in his presidency, President George W. Bush had 62 percent of his district court nominees confirmed, while Obama has had 45 percent confirmed." the Associated Press reports.

View Obama's remarks here. (Scroll down to the bottom for his comments on judicial nominations.)