Because of ongoing Republican obstruction, the Senate may be forced to take five weeks of its time to confirm 32 mostly unopposed judicial nominees … all of whom could be confirmed in five minutes. Among those 32 are two from Arkansas. Sen. Mark Pryor stood up yesterday to urge his colleagues to allow a vote on the two Arkansans, but Republicans would have none of it.
Some background: Timothy Brooks was approved by the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote way back in October. Two weeks later, the committee approved James Maxwell Moody, also by unanimous voice vote. But in the months since then, Senate Republicans have refused to give the "unanimous consent" that is required to schedule a confirmation vote without the need for a filibuster-busting cloture vote. So Brooks, Moody, and 30 other highly qualified nominees are stuck.
Yesterday, Sen. Pryor stood on the Senate floor and explained how the GOP's obstructionism was messing up local elections in his state: With the Senate preparing to leave town before a snowstorm and not return until the last week of February, Pryor explained the impact of inaction on the people of his state. As reported in the Arkansas Times Record:
Pryor said there was an urgent need to confirm Moody in particular, because the filing period to be listed on the ballot for Pulaski County Circuit judge opens later this month.
Without confirmation, Moody is left to wonder if he should file for re-election. If he does, his name cannot be removed from the ballot even if is confirmed to the federal bench.
"So this is causing a lot of problem back home," Pryor said on the Senate floor.
But the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, Chuck Grassley, objected. Why? Because Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules last year (although Pryor actually voted against the change).
It is important to note Grassley's situational ethics. In 2005, when it was George W. Bush's nominees who were at issue, he publicly supported the effort of Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster altogether for judicial nominees, and to make that change in Senate rules by majority vote. For instance, check out this press conference he gave with fellow GOP senators on May 19, 2005 (about 13 minutes into the clip).
So it was awfully rich yesterday for Grassley to cite the November rules change as justification for blocking votes on the two Arkansas nominees (as well as the 30 others being stymied). When Grassley makes comments like that, you almost expect to hear a laugh track.
Unfortunately, it isn't funny that the Senate will have to waste weeks of its time in needless "post-cloture debate" when it could confirm all these nominees in less than a day. Nor is the damage that the GOP is doing to the nation's federal court system and the Americans who rely on it for access to justice anything to laugh at.