gop obstruction

As Senate Cuts Deal to Move Some Judicial Nominees, PFAW Urges GOP to End Partisan Obstruction

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly reached an agreement this afternoon to begin to alleviate the backlog of judicial nominees created by GOP obstruction.

According to reports, Republicans will allow votes on 14 pending district and circuit nominees by May 7th , the first seven before the end of this month.

Reid was forced to file petitions Monday to end GOP filibusters of 17 district court nominees, many of whom had been waiting for votes for more than three months. Prior to the Obama administration, only three district court nominees had been filibustered in the past 60 years. President Obama’s nominees to the federal courts have had to wait on average four times as long for a simple Senate vote as did President Bush’s nominees at this point in his presidency.

People For the American Way’s Marge Baker
issued the following statement:

“Today’s agreement is good news for many Americans who have been facing understaffed courts and delayed justice simply because of partisan gridlock in the Senate. But, unfortunately, today’s progress doesn’t end the Republican gridlock. Even after these 14 nominees are confirmed, far too many seats on our federal courts will still be vacant. President Obama’s nominees still face consistent, unprecedented delays. It is absolutely ridiculous that it took such pressure to allow votes on a group of eminently qualified nominees with strong bipartisan support.

“If Senate Republicans want to show Americans they’re serious about doing the work they were elected to do, they should allow votes on the remaining nominees pending on the Senate floor and additional nominees who will be reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming months. The GOP needs to kick its habit of unprincipled gridlock once and for all.”


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Edit Memo: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way

Re: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

Date: March 13, 2012

Senate Democrats are taking action this week to call Republicans on their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees, which over the past three years has left far too many of our nation's courtrooms empty. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture petitions in an attempt to end the GOP filibusters of all 17 district court nominees currently waiting for Senate votes, most of whom have been stalled for over three months for absolutely no reason. And already, Senate Republicans have concocted a false spin in an attempt to cover for the mess they have helped to create in the federal courts.

Reid’s action is unprecedented: only two district court nominees were filibustered in the sixteen years of the Bush and Clinton presidencies. As of yesterday, nineteen of President Obama’s district court nominees have been filibustered.

If Republicans don’t back down and allow up-or-down votes on these nominees, the cumbersome cloture process will tie up the senate until early April – and it will become very clear to the American people that Republicans’ top priority is gridlock, not policy.

In response, Senate Republicans have united behind a message that seeks to blame President Obama for the gridlock they created. Their claim is that their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees is a direct response to President Obama’s recess appointments of a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and members of the National Labor Relations Board -- appointments that they neglect to mention were themselves necessary because of Republican obstruction.

This narrative is simply not true. Even a cursory look at the last three years shows that today’s Republican obstruction is not related to their fury at the president’s recess appointments. In fact, these unprecedented levels of obstruction have been going on since President Obama took office. By the end of 2011, before the recess appointments, President Obama's confirmed district court nominees had been stalled more than four times longer on average than President Bush's. That is the case today, as well.

The unjustified delays in 2009-2011 were hardly caused by recess appointments made in 2012.

Make no mistake: the Senate GOP’s obstruction of judicial nominees is part of a deeply cynical effort to create gridlock in Washington and to keep as many courtrooms empty for as long as possible in the hopes of having a Republican president fill them in 2013.

Our federal courts are now facing a historic vacancy crisis, and Americans are facing unjustified delays as they seek their day in court. Senate Republicans should ditch the false excuses for their obstruction, and start doing the job they were elected to do.

Press Contact: Miranda Blue, (202) 467-4999, media@pfaw.org.

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Unbridled Republican Obstruction Forces Extraordinary Action on Judicial Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he will file petitions to end Republican filibusters of 17 federal district court nominees. The extraordinary move highlights Senate Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees. During the entire 16 years that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office, there were only two filibusters of district court nominations. If Senate Republicans don’t relent on these 17 nominees, the cloture process could tie up the Senate through early April, with each nominee taking 30 hours of floor time under Senate rules.

“It is absolutely stunning that Republicans are willing to tie up Senate business for more than 510 hours just to make things more difficult for President Obama,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “For the past three years, Senate Republicans have been slow-walking judicial nominees at every step of the process, ignoring the duties they were elected to office to perform and contributing to a historic vacancy crisis in our federal courts. Ultimately, it’s the American people, who rely on fair and functioning federal courts, who pay the price for these political games.”

At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, the average district court nominee waited 22 days between approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee and a vote from the full Senate. Under President Obama, the average wait has been more than four times as long – over three months.

Currently, about one in ten seats on the federal courts is vacant, affecting access to justice for over 160 million Americans.

 

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Senate GOP Continues to Obstruct First Cuban American 11th Circuit Nominee

The Senate today voted 89-5 to end a GOP filibuster of the nomination of Adalberto José Jordán to sit on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, only to be met with another shameless Republican delaying tactic. Despite the overwhelming vote in favor of ending the filibuster on Jordán, one GOP senator invoked a “post-cloture period,” which will force the Senate to wait another 30 hours before taking a final vote on the nomination.

Once he is confirmed, Jordán will become the first Cuban American to sit on the 11th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Jordán, who has been a federal district court judge in Florida since 1999, has the full support of his home-state senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, and was approved unanimously by Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. An ABA panel unanimously gave him its highest rating of “well qualified.” Yet despite unquestioned qualifications and overwhelming bipartisan support, Jordán was forced to wait four months for a vote after he was approved without objection by the Judiciary Committee.

“No wonder Americans think Washington is broken,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “The Senate GOP, presented with an impeccably qualified nominee for a judicial vacancy that desperately needs to be filled, insisted on trying to block the nomination. They chose to filibuster for four months a nominee to whom they had no objection, and then, even after an overwhelming vote to end the filibuster, added another needless delay.

“In filibustering Jordán’s historic nomination all these months, the GOP is pointedly ignoring the glowing endorsement of one of its own members, Sen. Marco Rubio, and the support of Florida’s Cuban American community, for whom this nomination is a historic first. This is a party that is putting gridlock above all else – and the American people are noticing. Now it is time for the Senate to put obstruction aside and confirm Jordán and the other 17 highly qualified nominees who have cleared the committee and are awaiting a vote.”

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PFAW Praises President's Call for End to Nominations Obstruction

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama called for an end to the unprecedented obstruction of judicial and executive branch nominees.

Ohio Groups Meet with White House to Discuss Deepening Crisis in the Courts, Judicial Nominations

Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives from over a dozen Ohio social justice, legal and community action organizations from every part of the state participated in a conference call with White House staff today to discuss growing concern about the ongoing crisis in the federal courts.

PFAW Applauds President for Appointing Cordray; Recess Appointment a Necessary and Proper Response to GOP Obstruction

In a move to ensure the functioning of an important consumer protection agency in the face of escalating GOP obstructionism, the White House announced that President Obama will install Richard Cordray as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a recess appointment today.

Marge Baker of People For the American Way issued the following statement:

Senate GOP Again Moves Goalposts on Judicial Nominees, Leaves 21 Unconfirmed at End of Session

The Senate ended its 2011 session on Saturday, leaving 21 judicial nominees on its calendar. All but two of the abandoned nominees were supported by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee. Under none of the previous four presidents has the Senate left noncontroversial nominees without a vote at the end of a session.

PFAW Applauds Progress on Judicial Nominations, Urges Senate to Vote on Remaining Nominees

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out five new judicial nominees and the Senate confirmed three, bringing to 27 the total number of nominees still waiting for a vote from the full Senate. This puts the nominations backlog back to where it was last month before Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through votes on ten nominees who received broad bipartisan support.

“Senator Reid took an important step last month when he stood up to Republican obstructionism and pressured the Senate to confirm ten highly qualified judicial nominees,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “Unfortunately, since then the nominations backlog has returned to its previous size. The Senate should make it a priority to completely clear the current nominations backlog. Holding a vote on all 27 nominees currently on the calendar would provide desperately needed assistance to strained courts throughout the country and demonstrate Congress’s ability to do its job.

“Senate Republicans have made a habit of delaying President Obama’s judicial nominees hostage for as long as possible. This obstructionism is bad for the American people, who depend on both an efficient justice system and an effective legislature. It’s time for the Senate to do its job and hold votes on these 27 nominees.”

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Pressure Begins to Yield Results as Senate Takes Steps to Confirm 10 Judicial Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last night that agreement had been reached for the Senate to consider ten of President Obama’s judicial nominees over the next two weeks as part of a time agreement made with Senate Republicans. The move comes after months of Republican delay and obstruction created a backlog of 27 judicial nominees waiting for votes on the Senate floor. The vast majority of those nominees faced no opposition in the Judiciary Committee and had the support of their home state senators.

PFAW: Senate Should Confirm Judges by Unanimous Consent

With 19 superb candidates for the federal bench who have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, there is no reason to keep these well-qualified nominees in an endless holding pattern any longer.

The Senate returns to session today to approve a deal struck by the Obama Administration and congressional leaders to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. The deal will be approved by unanimous consent, a procedure that requires the presence of only a few Senators as long as there are no objections.

PFAW Applauds White House Call for September Action on Judges

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans yet again prevented the Senate from voting on highly qualified judicial nominees who had cleared committee, leaving 20 of them in limbo even though 17 had no recorded opposition.

PFAW Condemns Senate Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

The Senate recessed yesterday without voting to confirm 20 judicial nominees, virtually all of whom received overwhelming support from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Time to Stop GOP Obstruction of Judicial Nominees

As the Senate prepares for a planned recess scheduled through Labor Day, it is incumbent upon Republicans to allow floor votes on the rapidly increasing number of judicial nominees who have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but whose nominations are still pending before the whole Senate.

Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Re: Judiciary Committee Republicans: Delay for Delay’s Sake
Date: June 15, 2011 

This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nominations of three of President Obama’s judicial nominees:  Steve Six (for the Tenth Circuit), Marina Garcia Marmolejo (for the Southern District of Texas), and Michael C. Green (for the Western District of New York).

Actually, the committee was originally scheduled to vote on these three nominations a week earlier, on June 9.  However, because Republican obstructionism has become the rule, not one person ever believed for even a second that the committee would actually vote as scheduled.  And no one gasped in surprise that day when Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, announced that his party was exercising its prerogative to hold the vote over by a week.

That’s because since President Obama took office, virtually every one of his judicial nominees has had his or her committee vote delayed by Republicans by at least a week. This is true for Supreme Court Justices, circuit court judges, and even district court judges.  The routine use of this hold, without cause and almost without exception, is unprecedented.

Looked at in isolation, it might not appear all that harmful.  However, it is part of a larger set of procedural roadblocks the Senate GOP uses to obstruct confirmation of qualified nominees whose only “fault” is that they were nominated by a Democratic president.  The cynical abuse of this tactic makes clear that the actions of Senate Republicans toward President Obama’s judicial nominees is based on partisan politics, not principle.

Voting on a federal judicial nomination is an extremely serious responsibility and one that requires diligent research and thought.  So if senators sincerely have questions that have not been answered, or genuine and substantial concerns about a nominee’s fitness for the bench, then no one should begrudge them an extra few days to gather additional information.

But when Republicans exercise this option for every nominee, even those who are strongly supported by their home state Republican senators and have no opposition whatsoever, then their sincerity must be called into question.

The Senate has confirmed more than 70 of President Obama’s nominees without opposition.  In every case but four, committee Republicans exercised their prerogative to delay committee consideration of these consensus nominees by at least one week.  That begs the question:  Why?  What did they need to learn during the delay?  That is a question that should be posed to every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee about every one of these consensus nominees.

Take the nomination of Sue E. Myerscough for a judicial emergency district court seat in Illinois as a typical example.  She was first nominated in July of 2010, was deemed unanimously well qualified by the ABA, had a committee hearing in September, submitted responses to senators’ written questions, had her committee vote scheduled and delayed two weeks, was approved by the committee without opposition on December 1 ... and was one of the 43 qualified nominees needlessly denied a floor vote when the lame duck session of Congress ended.

By the time President Obama renominated her in early January, she was so well known to the committee that they did not require her to testify anew  or to submit new responses to written questions.  She was scheduled for a committee vote February 3, but committee Republicans exercised their option to delay that vote to the 17th, at which point she was again approved without opposition, leading to her unopposed confirmation by the Senate in March.

Senator Grassley and his fellow Republicans on the committee should explain why they demanded that the committee vote be held over a week.  There was no information they lacked, since they did not have her re-testify or submit new written responses to questions.  They had no serious concerns about her nomination, since they had already supported her in 2010 and ended up supporting her again once the vote was allowed.  Can they cite anything they learned during the week’s delay?

Sue Myerscough’s nomination is hardly unique.  No matter who the nominee is, no matter how qualified, no matter if confirmation is needed to address a judicial emergency, all the nominees have something in common: They were nominated by a Democratic president, and that is all the reason Republicans need to obstruct the process and sabotage the judicial branch of the United States government.

In so doing, they are living up to the vow made by right wing leaders in the opening days of the Obama presidency:  to function as a “resistance movement” rather than as responsible participants in an electoral democracy.

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Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker
Re: Why is the GOP keeping women and people of color off the bench?
Date: May 31, 2011

Last week, all Senate Republicans except Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski united to block Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, from getting an up or down confirmation vote.

Goodwin Liu Withdraws Nomination; PFAW Blasts Senate GOP's Smear Campaign

Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu requested that President Obama withdraw his nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Liu, who was first nominated to the position two years ago, was refused an up-or-down vote by Senate Republicans.

Senate Republicans Block Vote on Nomination of Goodwin Liu, Double Down on Partisan Obstruction

Republicans today used procedural tactics to block an up-or-down vote on the nomination of Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Flashback: GOP Senators Claim Filibusters of Judicial Nominees are Unconstitutional

The impending cloture vote on the Goodwin Liu nomination will be an important test to separate those senators who stand on principle from those who put politics above all else.

Tell the Senate: We've Had Enough Delay. Stop Republican Obstruction.

We've had enough delay and procedural foot dragging. It's time to stop Republican obstruction of judicial nominees.
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