At the end of the year, Senators of both parties often reach agreements to clear the decks of consensus judicial nominees. At least that was often the case before the Obama-era Republican Party went into “resistance movement” mode and set out to sabotage all things Obama. Now, as Republicans end their first year in control of the Senate, there are 13 consensus circuit and district court nominees waiting for a floor vote… and they have agreed to confirm exactly zero of them before leaving town.
What they have agreed to is the following: (1) unopposed Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo, approved by the Judiciary Committee back in July, will finally have his confirmation vote on January 11; (2) Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule votes on four unopposed district court nominees some time in January or February, before the President’s Day recess; (3) Republicans will not send any judicial nominations back to the White House, which would have forced them to be renominated and re-approved by committee.
Republicans also gave up in their efforts to bypass all blue-state nominees and let red-state ones skip over them toward confirmation. The nominees whose votes have been agreed to are highlighted below. They are not being taken in order, but ones from both blue and red states alike are being skipped.
- L. Felipe Restrepo (PA, Third Circuit) – July 9
- Waverly Crenshaw (TN) – July 9
- Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright (MN) – September 17
- John Vazquez (NJ) – September 17
- Paula Xinis (MD) – September 17
- Brian Martinotti (NJ) – October 29
- Robert Rossiter (NE) – October 29
- Edward Stanton (TN) – October 29
- Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger (IA) – November 5
- Leonard Strand (IA) – November 5
- Julien Neals (NJ) – November 5
- Gary Brown (NY) – November 5
- Mark Young (CA) – November 5
So while President Bush had 40 judges confirmed in 2007 when Democrats retook the Senate, the GOP-controlled Senate will end the year confirming only 11 of President Obama’s judges. This is the lowest number of circuit and district court judges confirmed in a year since 1960, the end of the Eisenhower era, when there were fewer than half the number of judgeships than there are today.
All 13 of the above nominees could be confirmed today. They should be confirmed today. That they won’t be is a testament to the little regard Senate Republicans hold for the federal court system that guarantees the rights of every American.