This morning, the Judiciary Committee voted to approve another three judicial nominees. As they are advanced to the Senate floor, they get in line behind another 29 judicial nominees who could (and should) have been confirmed long ago.
The GOP has not allowed the Senate to confirm even one judge during the current session of Congress. If the required unanimous consent to schedule a vote can't be found, then the only recourse is a cloture petition. There is no doubt that the needed majority would vote to end the Republicans' blockade. The only problem is that Senate rules allow the minority to insist that the Senate devote time to needless "post-cloture debate" before final confirmation.
Each circuit court nominee would take up 30 hours of the Senate's time; with five circuit nominees currently pending, that adds up to 150 hours. For district court nominees, the 30-hour rule that usually applies to them has been reduced to two hours under a temporary rule that expires at the end of the 113th Congress (in early January 2015). With 27 district court nominees, that's 54 hours of "post-cloture debate." So it could take 204 hours of Senate time to confirm the 32 nominees currently pending on the floor if Republicans continue to refuse to consent to any confirmations.
Even if the Senate put in 12-hours days, it would take 17 days of doing nothing but "post-cloture debate" to clear the current backlog. In fact, at this morning's committee meeting, Chairman Patrick Leahy noted that since Republicans are refusing to consent to any confirmation votes, the Senate might have to have weekend sessions or cancel its two-week spring recess in order to get these nominees confirmed.
As of today, there are an astounding 96 current judicial vacancies. Confirming the 32 pending nominees would immediately fill a third of those vacancies. It would also reduce the number of judicial emergencies across the country from 38 to 28. And it would help diversify the bench: Half of the nominees pending on the floor are women or people of color, and one is a lesbian. Almost all of them received overwhelming bipartisan support in committee. The obstruction is inexcusable.
With the Judiciary Committee continuing to process nominees – such as the six from Arizona who had a hearing last week – the bottleneck will only continue to grow unless all the Senate is finally allowed to hold confirmation votes on all these nominees.