In President Obama’s State of the Union address, the president called for reform to the nominations process for judicial and other public service nominees. “Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days,” Obama said. “... I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.” Following the address, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed President Obama’s proposed rule change, but he suggested that Supreme Court nominees might be an exception.
Pursuant to an agreement reached before the winter recess, the Senate voted to confirm John M. Gerrard to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska by a vote of 74-16. In an op-ed in the Omaha World Herald, Nebraska U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf praised his state’s Democratic and Republican senators for working together to push through Gerrard’s nomination in the face of opposition, calling their efforts a “template for those like me who wish to return to a time when the selection of federal judges was guided by seasoned politicians.”
This confirmation, however, may be the last in the near future, as Republicans are weighing retaliation against President Obama for recess appointing four executive branch nominees, Bloomberg reports. “Retaliation against judicial nominees may make it harder for Obama to reduce the 80 vacancies on the federal bench at the end of 2011, or 25 more than when he took office,” the article notes, crediting Brookings Institution scholar Russell Wheeler. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) appears single-handedly poised to block all movement on judicial nominations, saying in a hearing, “I find myself duty-bound to resist the consideration and approval of additional nominations until the president takes steps to remedy the situation.”
Unmoved, the president submitted three nominations to the federal judiciary. He nominated Robert E. Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, William J. Kayatta, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Michael A. Shipp to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee returned to work holding hearings of and voting on pending judicial nominees. The committee held a hearing for the nominations of Andrew David Hurwitz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and four other nominees to various district courts. The committee also held over the nomination of Paul J. Watford to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Ninth Circuit.
The Latest from “In the News”
- “Obama, senators at odds over picks,” from The Daily Report
- “Senate GOP Not United on Nominations,” from Roll Call
- “Two women wait to break judicial nomination logjam,” from The Las Vegas Review-Journal
The Latest from “Recommended Readings”
- “Obama deserves props for taking on GOP obstructionism,” from The Washington Post
- “Senate May Do Even Less This Year After Recess Appointments,” from Bloomberg Businessweek
- “Administration nominees awaiting next move by GOP,” from The Associated Press
- Sen. Grassley on Recess Appointments
- Sen. Johanns on Confirmation of Justice Gerrard to U.S. District Court
- Sen. Schumer on Recommendation of Attorney Lorna G. Schofield for U.S. District Court Judgeship