Obstruction

Fact Sheet: GOP Obstruction and the D.C. Circuit

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to sit on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Srinivasan, who was first nominated ten months ago yet is just now receiving a hearing, is the latest Obama judicial nominee caught in the web of Senate obstruction.  Last month, Republicans blocked the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to a seat on the same court,  despite her impeccable qualifications and strong bipartisan backing. Some important facts to keep in mind during and after today’s hearing:

  • President Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to serve a full first term without putting a single judge on the D.C. Circuit. There are currently four vacancies on the 11-member D.C. Circuit, and three of the remaining judges are eligible for retirement or senior status, meaning we could soon see as many as seven vacancies on this 11-member court. Senate Republicans have prevented President Obama from filling a single one, although he first nominated Srinivasan ten months ago and Halligan in 2010.

  • The D.C. Circuit, which has the final word on reams of executive actions, congressional enactments, and federal regulations each year, is currently dominated by far-right George W. Bush nominees. President Bush succeeded in shifting the courts – and especially the D.C. Circuit -- far to the right during his presidency. His D.C. Circuit nominees have systematically rolled back protections for workers and consumers. A mainstream Obama nominee would provide some much-needed balance to this influential court.
  • Our federal courts are suffering because of entrenched Republican obstruction. Because of both public and silent Republican filibusters, President Obama’s appeals court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 153 days between Judiciary Committee approval and a yes-or-no vote from the Senate. At this point in Bush’s presidency, the average wait for confirmed appeals court nominees was just 37 days. The foot-dragging is unrelated to who the nominee is – even consensus nominees with the strong support of their Republican home-state senators have been forced to wait for months through active or silent filibusters before the Senate is finally allowed to hold a confirmation vote. This pointless obstruction, which is echoed at the district court level, has led to persistently high vacancy rates and longer waits for Americans seeking their day in court.


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Senate Confirms New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz After Year-Long Delay

WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz of New Jersey to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a 64 to 34 vote today, over one year after her nomination was sent to the Senate floor for a vote. Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:

“The absurd delay of Patty Shwartz’s confirmation is emblematic of a Republican Party determined to obstruct the American people’s business at all costs. Judge Shwartz is indisputably qualified and supported by New Jersey’s legal leaders and elected officials from both parties, including Gov. Christie and both of the state’s U.S. senators. The only thing stopping the Senate from voting on her nomination was a 13-month Republican silent filibuster supported by flimsy excuses.

“The delay in confirming Judge Shwartz is sadly not unusual. President Obama’s confirmed circuit court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 153 days from Judiciary Committee approval to floor vote. By contrast, George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees at this point in his presidency waited an average of just 37 days. This deliberate slow-walking of nominees is obstructing Senate business, exacerbating a vacancy crisis in our federal courts, and deterring highly qualified individuals from putting themselves forward to serve on the federal bench. 

“This summer, two more Third Circuit judgeships will become vacant. We hope that Senate Republicans will allow these vacancies to be filled in a timely manner.”

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Courts Without Judges, Per the GOP Plan

The NY Times explains how Republican obstructionism is the main cause of the judicial vacancy crisis, which is undermining our system of justice.
PFAW

Using the Courts to Derail Reform

Powerful financial entities are turning to conservative judges to undermine the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
PFAW

Obama Talks to Senators About Broken Judicial Confirmation Process

Republicans ended their year-long blockade of an unopposed circuit court nominee after unjustly torpedoing another with a filibuster.
PFAW

Obama Condemns Filibuster of His DC Circuit Court Nominee

President Obama specifically cites the obstruction of the three remaining Republican members of the "Gang of 14."
PFAW

PFAW: Filibuster of Caitlin Halligan 'Destructive' and 'Politically-Motivated'

WASHINGTON – An effort to end the Republican filibuster of DC Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Caitlin Halligan fell short in a 51-41 vote in the Senate today.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

“Senate Republicans have once again decided to put their own partisan interests above the will of American voters and the health of our system of justice. Caitlin Halligan is an exceptionally qualified, widely respected and unquestionably mainstream nominee. But a minority of U.S. senators, egged on by conservative activists and a party leadership with their own narrow agendas, have cherry-picked and misrepresented her record in order to keep her off the federal bench.

“Let’s call the filibuster of Halligan what it is: a politically-motivated attempt to keep President Obama’s nominee off the second highest court in the country. Four years into Obama’s presidency, more than one-third of the DC Circuit’s seats are vacant and the president has yet to have a single nominee confirmed to the court. In the meantime, the court continues to be dominated by far-right Republican-appointed judges who have pushed an extreme right-wing agenda on issues including environmental protection, workers’ rights and public health. This is not a coincidence.

“The American people have twice elected President Obama, yet a minority of U.S. senators continues to place a stranglehold on his judicial nominees. This has not only damaged our federal courts, which are facing an ongoing vacancy crisis, but has hurt the credibility of the U.S. Senate. Americans deserve better than this destructive, politically-motivated gridlock.”

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Five Reasons the Senate Should Confirm Caitlin Halligan

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will ask the Senate to vote this week on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, President Obama’s nominee to fill one of four vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
PFAW

Orrin Hatch Votes Present: Obstruction By Another Name

Orrin Hatch is exhibit A in the abuse of Senate rules to block President Obama’s nominees.
PFAW

White House Speaks Out for Judicial Nominees

After committee approval of several judicial nominees, including for the DC Circuit, the Obama Administration urges Senate action on judges.
PFAW

Senate Holds First Vote On Circuit Court Nominee in Eight Months

Today the Senate held its first vote on a judicial nominee for a Circuit Court since June 2012.  William J. Kayatta, Jr. of Maine was confirmed as U.S. Circuit Judge for the First Circuit Court of Appeals by an 88-12 vote during today’s session.  Despite broad bipartisan support and the support of his state’s senators in both the 112th and 113th Congresses, Kayatta faced ten months of unnecessary delays.

“We applaud Majority Leader Reid for his leadership in pressing for today’s vote,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We hope that this will be a turning point signaling a shift toward more timely confirmations for judicial nominees.  This needless stalling – and during a time of unprecedented judicial vacancies – has gone on for far too long.  The bottom line is that Americans need a functioning system of justice. They have grown weary with reckless obstruction.”
 

Obama Highlights Judges in Response to Filibuster Deal

The president again signals the priority he places on judicial nominations during his second term.
PFAW

Recess Appointments Ruling Shows Consequences of GOP Obstructionism

There would be no litigation on recess appointments but for Republicans' refusal to allow the Senate to vote on President Obama's nominees.
PFAW

Sen. Leahy Talks About Judges at Georgetown Law

The Judiciary Committee chairman condemns obstruction of qualified judicial nominees.
PFAW

Swift Renominations Show Obama's Commitment to Judicial Nominations

As soon as the 103rd Congress began, Obama renominated every judicial nominee left unconfirmed and called for their timely confirmation.
PFAW

PFAW Commends President for Standing Up For Stalled Judicial Nominees

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way today commended President Obama for re-nominating the 33 federal judicial nominees the Senate failed to confirm in the last Congress, and urged the Senate to act quickly to confirm all 33.

“The president is sending a strong message to the new Senate about the importance of ending the judicial vacancy crisis,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “It is imperative that the Senate work with the  White House to confirm qualified nominees to our federal courts and put an end to the obstruction that has denied too many Americans timely access to justice. These nominees could and should have been confirmed last year. There is no excuse for delaying their confirmations any longer.”

One third of the 33 nominees that the president sent to the Senate were approved by the Judiciary Committee last year but were stalled by Republicans on the Senate floor. Others were awaiting hearings or votes in committee. One, D.C. Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan, was first nominated by the president to fill a vacancy on this critically important court more than two years ago. 

The nominations sent back to the Senate reflect President Obama’s efforts to bring diversity to the federal bench. 25 of the 33  nominees sent to the Senate today are women or people of color.


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