Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stood up on the Senate floor this morning to remind Republicans of one of their basic constitutional duties as senators: to consider the president’s nominees for federal judgeships.
He pointed out the stark contrast with how the Democratic-controlled Senate processed judicial nominations in George W. Bush’s last two years:
So far this Congress, Republicans have confirmed only 5 judges. By this same point in the last Congress of George W. Bush’s presidency, under my leadership, the Senate had confirmed 25 judges. Republicans are being outpaced 5-to-1. And there are real repercussions when Republicans refuse to act. If there aren’t enough judges to hear the cases that are piling up, a vacant judgeship is declared a judicial emergency. At the beginning of the year, there were only 12 judicial emergencies that deserved priority attention. Yet in the mere 7 months of this Republican-controlled Senate, that number has doubled, and is on its way to tripling. As of today, there are 28 judicial emergencies – including four judges currently pending on the floor.
Of course, as much as Republicans try to obscure it, the fact is that 25 ≠ 5.
Reid also explained how the GOP’s abdication of responsible governing is hurting the American people:
By neglecting to live up to their constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” for the President’s judicial nominees, the Republican Leader and his party are denying justice for the American people. Federal courts depend on the Senate to do its job so justice can be dispensed in courtrooms across the country. But Republicans clearly have no interest in seeing courtrooms and judicial chambers adequately staffed.
Reid also slammed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton for blocking a confirmation vote last week for five nominees to the Court of Federal Claims. These are nominees who were approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last year and again this year to a court whose chief judge has urged the Senate to fill its vacancies so the court can handle its caseload. Nevertheless, Cotton blocked the Senate from voting on the nominees, saying that the judges on the court are willing to carry the caseload themselves without new judges. (Reid also mentioned yesterday’s report from CQ on how Cotton’s action seems to line up with the financial interests of a law firm he used to work for whose employees gave generously to his campaign.)
Courts matter. So do the judges who are selected to serve on those courts. Republicans are weakening our federal court system, even though our most important rights depend on being able to have our day in court front of a fair and unbiased judge. Senator Reid is right to call on the GOP to do better by the American people.