With Senate Republicans continuing to block Democratic efforts to hold confirmation votes on so many circuit and district court nominees, the Federal Bar Association has written to the two party leaders asking them to act.
As the lame duck session continues, we write to urge you to promptly schedule floor votes on pending, noncontroversial United States circuit court nominees and district court nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support and who await a final up-or-down vote. The high number of existing judicial vacancies [many of which are judicial emergencies] underscores the need for prompt attention by the Senate in fulfilling its Constitutional responsibilities.
It's important to note that the FBA included circuit court nominees in its letter. Yesterday marked six months since the last circuit court confirmation vote. Unquestionably qualified nominees with the support of their home state senators (both Democratic and Republican) and with the highest possible ABA ratings have been stalled for absurd lengths of time: Patty Shwartz (Third Circuit) and Richard Taranto (Federal Circuit) since March, William Kayatta (First Circuit) since April, and Robert Bacharach (Tenth Circuit) since June. While Republicans have absurdly been blocking district court nominees as well, none has been blocked as long as any of the four circuit court nominees.
This isn't from lack of trying on the part of Democrats. In fact, they filed a cloture petition in July to break the filibuster of Bacharach, which failed because only three Republicans voted to put the interest of the 17 million Americans living in the Tenth Circuit over the partisan machinations of GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
All four circuit court nominations should have had a vote long before Election Day, but Republicans blocked for month after month, claiming they wanted to wait until after the election to allow a vote. It is now more than a month after Election Day, yet Republicans are still blocking votes on the same circuit court nominations. If they are not confirmed in the lame duck, they will have to be renominated next year and go through the process all over again, delaying not only their own confirmations but those of other nominees who will find themselves in line behind these four.
A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable that the Senate would need to be prodded to "schedule floor votes on pending, noncontroversial United States circuit court nominees and district court nominees who have cleared the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support." That is a core Senate duty, but Republicans see doing their job as a concession to bargain with Democrats over, without regard to the damage it does to our nation's system of justice.