As the Senate is winding up its business for the first session of the 113th Congress, Republicans are taking steps to make it harder to get things done during the second session (which starts in 2014). Specifically, they are taking almost every judicial nomination, no matter where it is in the confirmation process, and forcing them to start all over again.
Under Senate rules, any nominee not confirmed by the end of a session of Congress has their nomination returned to the White House for renomination. Usually, this rule is waived by unanimous consent of the senators, so as not to waste the time of the nominees and their families, the White House, members of the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate overall. But this year, petulant over having their own "nuclear option" idea enacted by Democrats, Republicans are more interested in sabotaging the work of the Senate than they are in providing an effective federal court system for their constituents.
So of the 56 judicial nominees who have not been confirmed, 55 have been returned to the White House. (The one exception is for DC Circuit Court nominee Robert Wilkins, who can't be sent back because a motion to reconsider the cloture vote on his nomination is currently pending.)
That includes nine nominees who have long been pending on the Senate floor but who have been denied votes week after week after week by GOP obstruction. All but one had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or near-unanimous bipartisan support. All had been waiting more than a month for a vote, and most had been waiting since October or earlier; one had even been waiting three months. Four had been nominated to fill vacancies classified as judicial emergencies, and five were women or people of color. But now they all have to start again.
They include Tenth Circuit nominee Carolyn McHugh, who had received the strong support of both Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Yet neither senator has been visible condemning their fellow Republicans for delaying her nomination for weeks. The senators know that those weeks may turn into months, depending on how much their party blocks the Judiciary Committee from reprocessing the nomination next year, using the newly elevated methods of obstruction they have been implementing over the past few weeks. Also conspicuous for not helping home state judicial nominees are Arkansas Sen. John Boozman (for district court nominees Timothy Brooks and James Moody) and Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (for district court nominee Pamela Reeves).
Also sent back are 15 nominees who Republicans intentionally kept bottled up in committee in repeated acts of pique, denying them the chance to advance to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote. They, too, have to start again.
Beginning next month, the Judiciary Committee will have 55 nominations to reprocess. Hopefully, those who have had hearings already will not be required to repeat them. But given the Republicans' commitment to sabotage, we can't be sure of anything.