by Nicole Flatow
Saturday marks one year since Rosemary Marquez was nominated to fill a judicial emergency seat in the District of Arizona, a jurisdiction so overwhelmed with immigration and drug cases that the chief judge has said it might be difficult to find anyone willing to accept a nomination.
But as Cronkite News reports, Marquez’s nomination has not moved one inch since June 2011, thanks to the Arizona senators’ refusal to submit the required “blue slips.”
Withholding these blue slips has increasingly become a means of imposing a de facto veto on Obama nominees, with similar blocks causing longtime freezes on nominees in Georgia, Nevada, Kansas and Oklahoma.
And threatening to withhold blue slips has prevented President Obama from even making nominations or re-nominations in many other instances, The National Law Journal reports.
In Wisconsin, nominees once supported by both senators were sent back to the President after newly elected Sen. Ron Johnson refused to support Obama’s nominees. In Kansas, Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran withdrew their support for a nominee they originally backed. And in Georgia, Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have refused to submit blue slips on a circuit court nominee they supported for the district court.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing examples of this trend was the failed nomination of Arvo Mikkanen, who would have been only the third Native American federal judge in American history.Mikkanen, a veteran federal prosecutor, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes and graduate of Yale Law School, was held up by Oklahoma’s senators for no apparent reason other than a political dispute with the White House.
For months, Sen. Tom Coburn maintained that Mikkanen was “unacceptable” for the position without providing any further explanation. When asked if he knew Mikkanen, Coburn said, “I know plenty. No comment.” Coburn never submitted his blue slip on Mikkanen, and his nomination was ultimately sent back to the president.
Blue slips, of course, are far from the only tool of obstruction used to block Obama nominees. Just last week, Senate Republicans announced plans to invoke the so-called “Thurmond Rule” to block every single federal appeals court nominee until after the November election. In response, Republicans including Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Democrats led by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and the American Bar Association all pushed back against the move to block consensus nominees.
And throughout the Obama presidency, the use of secret holds, the filibuster and other delay tactics have forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to file an extraordinary 28 motions to force votes on judicial nominees.
Like most other obstructionists, the Arizona senators who have opposed Marquez for an entire year have never provided a reason for their opposition, seemingly unconcerned with the urgent need for judges in the overworked district.
"That's the whole frustration," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told The National Law Journal. "If there is something that questioned her capacity, temperament or ability to do the job Obama nominated her for, put it out there so people can know and the nominee can defend herself."