gop obstruction

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.

Senate Confirms Ed Chen: Republicans Forego Obstruction

The Senate today confirmed Ed Chen as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Despite attacks by some GOP leaders, Chen was confirmed by a vote of 56 to 42 and did not face a filibuster.

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

“Ed Chen is exceedingly well qualified for this seat. Despite the repeated delays he was forced to endure, Americans should be glad that the Senate finally confirmed his nomination.

Senate Flouts Corporate Lobbyists, Breaks Filibuster of Nominee

Today, in a 63-33 vote, the Senate broke a filibuster of the nomination of John McConnell to serve as a district court judge in Rhode Island. The attempted obstruction of a district court nominee was a top priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent enormous lobbying resources on sinking McConnell’s nomination. The Chamber objected to McConnell’s work as a public interest lawyer in Rhode Island, where he took on lead paint manufacturers and tobacco companies on behalf of consumers.

PFAW Edit Memo: The Lesson From One Year of Health Care Reform—Pay Attention to the Courts

When health care reform legislation was signed one year ago, the sustained attack against health care reform didn’t stop when the bill was signed. Almost immediately, the opponents of the bill opened a new attack on the legislation in a different venue: the federal courts.

PFAW Edit Memo: Progress on Judicial Confirmations (But Not Enough)

From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
To: Interested Parties
Date: March 8, 2011
Re: Progress on Judicial Confirmations (But Not Enough)

Senate Confirms Three Judicial Nominees

The Senate today confirmed three of President Obama’s judicial nominees as the result of an agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Editorial Memorandum: Judicial Nominees and the State of the Union

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
Re: Judicial Nominees and the State of the Union
Date: January 25, 2011

While it’s not clear exactly which Supreme Court Justices will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, it is clear that at least some of the Court’s conservative members agree with the President on one pressing issue: the need to hasten the confirmation of judges to the federal bench.

President Obama Sends Judicial Nominations Back to the Senate

President Obama today renominated 42 judicial nominees whose confirmations were blocked by Senate Republicans last year.

Changing How We Treat Judicial Nominees

In the last session of Congress, the Senate’s treatment of President Obama’s judicial nominees was deeply disappointing. When the 111th Congress drew to a close, no fewer than 19 nominees were left waiting for votes

GOP Senators Target Judicial Nominees of Color

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
Re: GOP Senators Target Judicial Nominees of Color
Date: December 22, 2010

Republicans Stymie Progress on Judicial Nominations

According to media reports, Senate Republicans have agreed to confirm a total of 19 of the 38 judicial nominations pending on the Senate’s calendar at the beginning of the lame duck session in exchange for a commitment that Senate Democrats refrain from holding votes on four others.

Holding Judges Hostage

As the end of the 111th Congress approaches, 38 judicial nominees approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee are waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. Many of the nominees have been waiting for months, while a few have been waiting for almost a year.

Senate Judiciary Committee Moves Judges Forward, Full Senate Still Gripped by GOP Obstruction

The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved another 11 of President Obama’s judicial nominees, sending them to the full senate where they’ll join 23 others waiting for approval.
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