by Nicole Flatow
At the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting this weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged his conservative friends to stop obstructing President Obama’s qualified judicial nominees, even as Graham has moved to block a string of appeals court nominees rated unanimously well-qualified by the organization he was addressing.
“If President Obama wins a second term, it is not appropriate for us to try to stop all of his nominees because we don’t adhere to his philosophy,” Graham told an audience of ABA members. “It’s only appropriate when the person is not qualified for the job.”
But over the past year, Graham has obstructed multiple nominees that received the ABA's highest rating for qualifications, including Robert Bacharach, Caitlin Halligan, Goodwin Liu and Andrew Hurwitz. And in another obstructionist move, Graham threatened last April to block votes on every pending nominee until funding was allocated to a study on the Port of Charleston.
In a keynote address focused on judicial nominations and threats to an independent judiciary, Graham expressed alarm over the politicization of the judicial nominations process, and called for a return to the time when “you voted on qualifications” and “you didn’t substitute your judgment or your philosophy for that of the president.” Graham did not address why the nominees he attempted to block were exempted from this approach.
Days after Graham’s remarks, the Senate recessed without voting on any of the 22 judicial nominees ready for an immediate confirmation vote. Most of these nominees had broad bipartisan support, including Robert Bacharach, whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit was filibustered with the help of Graham, even though Bacharach had the support of both of his Republican home-state senators.
The vacancy rate and number of judicial emergencies on the federal courts has remained remarkably high since President Obama took office, and Obama is poised to become the first president in recent history to end his first term with more vacancies than he inherited.
When the Senate returns from recess, will Graham heed his own words and push for votes on these 22 qualified nominees?