One of the most important duties of the president of the United States is to nominate judges for the Supreme Court and our nation’s federal circuit and district courts. And one of the most important jobs of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is to ensure that those nominees are thoroughly vetted, starting with a committee hearing. Sadly for America, while the current occupant of the White House continues to do his job, the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee stubbornly refuses to do his.
While the GOP’s unprecedented stalling of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination has appropriately made headlines and is opposed by large majorities of the American people, Senate Republicans have long been stalling President Obama’s lower court nominations, as well. Yet the president continues to do his job: So far this year (excluding today), he has made nominations to fill seven circuit and 16 district court vacancies. In contrast, Chairman Grassley has been so busy ignoring the Supreme Court nomination that he has not yet allowed a hearing for any of this year’s nominees.
But that hasn’t stopped the White House from continuing its efforts to fill our judicial vacancies and resolve judicial emergencies. Today, the White House announced eight new district court nominations. They would fill seats and enhance access to justice in Colorado, Florida (3 nominees), Nevada, North Carolina, and Washington DC (2 nominees).
There is no reason today’s nominees cannot be confirmed. Eleven of President George W. Bush’s district court nominations made after this date in 2008 were confirmed that year, including ones nominated as late as July 24. Ten had their committee hearings, committee votes, and confirmation floor votes all in the same month, September of 2008, just two months before the presidential election.
Notably, Chairman Leahy and Majority Leader Reid didn’t limit hearings and confirmation votes to nominees from states with two Democratic senators, as nominees from Utah, Kansas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado were among those in this group. In fact, only two of those 11 confirmed judges came from states with two Democratic senators.
Before today’s eight nominations, there were already 33 circuit and district court nominees in the Judiciary Committee, four fifths of whom have still not even had a hearing even though the overwhelming majority of them were nominated more than two months ago. With today’s nominations, the bottleneck of long-waiting nominees without hearings that Chairman Grassley has intentionally created grows even larger.
Perhaps Sen. Grassley will do what his predecessor as chairman did: Sen. Leahy held two confirmation hearings in the first week of May 2008, where three of the nominees were for circuit courts. Indeed, Chairman Grassley has not allowed any of the seven pending circuit nominees nominations to have a hearing, even though most of them were nominated more than two months ago. Three of those have their blue slips in from both home state senators – Donald Schott of Wisconsin for the 7th Circuit, Jennifer K Puhl of North Dakota for the 8th Circuit, and Lucy Koh of California for the 9th Circuit, so there is no reason for Grassley to continue to deny them hearings.
It is critical for Senate Republicans, starting with Chuck Grassley, to #DoYourJob and stop denying a hearing to the president’s Supreme Court nominee and his nominees for circuit and district courts.