This morning, a number of Senate Democrats took to the floor to condemn the unprecedented obstruction of qualified, consensus judicial nominees that Senate Republicans have been engaged in since the start of the Obama Administration. Here are just a few of the many highlights:
Today I’m here to discuss along with my colleagues another dynamic of Capitol Hill that is making people lose faith in Washington, the apparent inability of Congress to get routine business done, specifically, the failure of the Senate to fill the dozens of judicial vacancies that exist around the country.
The bottom line — judicial nominees with no controversy, widespread bipartisan approval are being held up on the Senate calendar and not approved. Why? Well, I can tell you why. It’s fairly clear. …
What we are seeing now is an effort by the Republicans to hold up our stop judicial nominees in the hopes that they’ll be left vacant through the entire calendar year and then if they have their way at the polls a Republican president will fill the vacancies a year from now with new nominees. That is crass, it is unfair. …
President Obama’s nominees have waited four times longer after committee approval than did President Bush’s nominees at this point in his first term.
I am concerned, Mr. President, that our judicial confirmation process here in the Senate has broken down due to partisanship, particularly for noncontroversial judges.
We have confirmed only three judicial nominees this session, only five in the past two months, and only 11 in the last 90 days. And of the three judges whom we’ve confirmed this session, we’ve had to file cloture on two of them. This isn’t a responsible use of the Senate’s advise and consent powers.
Today, partisanship has stalled even the most uncontroversial judicial appointments. Senate Republicans allowed no nominees to be confirmed at the end of the last session, and have allowed but five so far this year. In this environment, even those reported out of committee by voice vote, without any controversy, are unable to receive a floor vote for many months, if they ever receive one at all.
Sen. Leahy, who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee has spoken out many times on the issue, today said:
These highly qualified – consensus – nominees should be confirmed without further delay. They should have been confirmed last year. One hundred and thirty million Americans live in circuits or districts with a judicial vacancy that could be filled if Senate Republicans would consent to votes on these nominees. The delays are as damaging as they are inexplicable. Ultimately, it is the American people who pay the price for this unnecessary and harmful delay in confirming judges.
There are now 19 pending nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee who are waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. Seventeen were approved by the Judiciary Committee with very strong bipartisan support: 12 without any opposition at all, and 5 with only one no vote. Ten have been waiting for three months or more for a vote from the full Senate. Ten have been nominated to fill vacancies classified as judicial emergencies. Fourteen of the 19 are women or people of color, and one is an openly gay man.
It is long past time to allow the Senate to vote on their confirmations.