judicial nominations

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.

PFAW Applauds Senate Confirmation of Paul Oetken

Today, the Senate confirmed J. Paul Oetken by a vote of 80 to 13 to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Oetken is the first openly gay man to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

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.

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)

Organizations Call on Senate Leaders to Keep Confirmations Moving

In a letter sent today, a wide array of organizations called on Senate leaders to ensure that President Obama’s judicial nominees receive timely votes during the 112th Congress.

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.

Ongoing Coverage on PFAW's Blog

Check out PFAW's ongoing coverage of Judicial Nominations

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.

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

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