Senator Chuck Grassley

  • June 26, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Yesterday, Senator Chuck Grassley again delayed a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on judicial nominees. Luis Felipe Restrepo, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit, Travis Randall McDonough, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and  Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee, are still waiting to be voted out of committee.

    Senator Patrick Leahy released a statement urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to perform its job of voting on judicial nominees. Leahy pointed out that “the Republican-led Senate has not confirmed a single judge this work period.”

    Alliance for Justice notes that this type of delays are becoming a pattern for Senator Grassley, and he has created three consecutive weeks without a confirmation hearing. The Wall Street Journal questions whether the Senate has truly turned a corner with Republican leadership. The article notes that “the Senate is on pace to confirm the fewest judicial nominations of any recent Congress.”

    There are currently 60 vacancies, and 28 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 19 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • May 15, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    This week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a letter from Senator Pat Toomey that insists he is not to blame for the delays on the consideration of District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. But it seems clear that the Senator has taken few steps to get the Judiciary Committee to take up Restrepo’s nomination, as the Text & History Blog of the Constitutional Accountability Center explains.

    Few are buying Toomey’s assertion that he is not delaying action on Restrepo’s nomination. The vacancy that Restrepo would fill is currently a judicial emergency, but The Huffington Post reports that it remains unclear when he will get a hearing.

    In other news, a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit may finally have a nominee after sitting vacant for more than five years. As the Constitutional Accountability Center reports, Senator Tammy Baldwin submitted the names of eight possible candidates to the White House this week.

    There are currently 56 vacancies, and 24 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • May 1, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    On Thursday, President Obama announced five new judicial nominations: Todd Sunhwae Kim to be an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Julie Helene Becker, William Ward Nooter, Robert A. Salerno, and Steven M. Wellner to be Associate Judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  

    Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refuses to admit his part in the delays on judicial nominees. As the Alliance for Justice explains, the senator has claimed that Republicans should take credit for nominees confirmed last congress, but has denied any responsibility for two months of Loretta Lynch’s confirmation wait that occurred in the same time period.

    More troubling still, the senator’s comments at the National Press Club on Monday indicate that he may wish to shut down judicial confirmations entirely. Senator Grassley stated, “Come July of 2015, probably they’ll be cut off and not approving any.”

    The blog of People for the American Way illustrates the problem with cutting off judicial confirmations in July. Not only could this move continue to swell the number of judicial vacancies, but it also comes at a time when the nominees that have presented are being considered at a glacial pace.

    There are currently 55 vacancies, and 23 are now considered judicial emergencies. There are 17 pending nominees. For more information see judicialnominations.org.

  • April 23, 2015
    Guest Post

    by K.O. Myers, coordinator of the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition, and Development and Operations Manager at One Iowa in Des Moines.

    On April 14, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recommended candidates to fill two upcoming District Court vacancies here in his home state of Iowa. If President Obama takes the Senator’s suggestions, he’ll nominate Magistrate Judge Leonard Strand for an opening on the Northern District of Iowa, and state district Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger for the Southern District. The nominations will then go to the Senate Judiciary Committee to begin a lengthy confirmation process where, if recent history is any guide, they’ll collide with one of their biggest obstacles to confirmation: the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley.

    Article II of the Constitution reserves an important “advice and consent” role for the Senate in confirming the president’s judicial nominees. These are lifetime appointments, with the power to invalidate actions of the political branches. Under our thoughtfully designed system of checks and balances, it makes sense that neither the legislative nor executive should have exclusive control over staffing the judiciary.

    As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley wields enormous influence on the confirmation process. He sets the agenda for the committee, and is responsible for scheduling hearings and votes on pending nominees. Potential judges can’t proceed to a Senate floor vote until they’ve been vetted by the committee.

    Unfortunately, Grassley and his Republican Senate colleagues have enthusiastically embraced the “check” portion of that famous formula, and don’t seem particularly concerned about “balance.” On the day Grassley announced his recommendations, the Senate held its first vote on a judicial nomination, three months after the Republican majority took over in January, unanimously confirming Alfred H. Bennett to a vacancy in the Southern District of Texas. On April 20, the Senate held a second vote, confirming George C. Hanks, Jr. As former Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy noted after the first vote, by April of 2007 the Democratically controlled Senate had confirmed 15 of then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. (In fairness to Grassley, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is responsible for scheduling confirmation votes on the Senate floor.)