We talk a lot about the purely political motives Republican senators have in their efforts to slow down the confirmation process for President Obama’s judicial nominees. It’s easy to forget that who those nominees are—and when they start working— makes a huge difference. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this weekend that nearly 40% of all federal judges currently on the bench were appointed by George W. Bush–who made a concerted effort to appoint judges with right-wing credentials, and, you might say, didn’t put much of a priority on gender or racial diversity.
Obama, in contrast, has returned to a more bipartisan appointment process and has a notably diverse list of appointees. But thanks to Republican obstruction, Obama’s appointees aren’t making it to the bench:
So far, nearly half of Obama’s 73 appointments to the federal bench have been women, 25 percent have been African American, 11 percent Asian American, and 10 percent Hispanic. About 30 percent of Obama’s nominees were white males. By contrast, two-thirds of George W. Bush’s nominees were white males.
Obama’s rate of appointing women and people of color is higher than those of any of his predecessors during the first year of their terms. But he is not the only one setting records.
According to a report by the Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group: "The Senate confirmed both fewer nominees and a smaller percentage of nominees under President Obama than under any other previous five presidents during their first year in office."
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had 91 percent of their nominees confirmed in their first year in office. Since then, however, the figure has sharply declined, with George H.W. Bush getting 65 percent of his early judicial nominees confirmed, followed by Bill Clinton at 57 percent, George W. Bush at 44 percent, and Obama at 36 percent.
As recent events in the Fifth Circuit reminded us, it really does matter who ends up in federal judgeships. And Republicans, booted from control of the legislative and executive branches, are fighting tooth and nail to keep the courts.