Obstruction

How the NRA is Working with Senate Republicans to Block Judicial Nominees

The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse has a great blog post up on the National Rifle Association’s little-known role in influencing Senate votes on federal judicial nominees. Greenhouse focuses on the NRA’s effort to scare Republican Senators away from voting for the Supreme Court nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – neither of whom had any actual Second Amendment record – and its successful effort to frustrate the DC Circuit nomination of Caitlin Halligan, who had once represented the state of New York in a gun control case.

These are the most prominent examples of the NRA’s efforts to keep qualified judicial nominees off the federal bench without reason. But there are plenty more examples out there. One of the most appalling is that of Elissa Cadish, who President Obama nominated to fill a district court seat in Nevada back in February. The NRA immediately got to work to stop Cadish’s nomination. Why? One month before the Supreme Court’s Heller decision – in which it overturned decades of case law to state that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own firearms – Cadish correctly answered a questionnaire about the current state of Second Amendment law. At the time, Cadish correctly stated that the law that she would follow as a district court judge did not include the individual right to bear firearms. After Heller, she clarified that she would of course follow current law, which now did include this right.

This was a sign of proper judicial restraint – district court judges are in the business of applying the law as interpreted by higher courts – but to the NRA it was an excuse to bring down a judicial nominee. The gun group strong-armed Nevada Sen. Dean Heller into opposing the nomination and that was that. Heller refused to give his permission for the Senate Judiciary Committee to even hold a hearing on Cadish (permission is traditionally required from both home-state senators), and her nomination foundered.

The NRA didn’t get involved with these judicial nominations because it had substantive reasons to oppose the nominees. It got involved because it is, in effect, a codependent wing of the Republican party. Greenhouse points out that it was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who reached out to the NRA about opposing Sotomayor, rather than the other way around. Senate Republicans want to stop President Obama from filling seats on the federal courts. They then used the NRA as a useful bludgeon to keep in line senators who might consider being reasonable. The NRA and the Republican leadership get what they want from this relationship. The rest of us get a gridlocked Senate, a vacancy crisis in the federal courts and nation awash in firearms.

PFAW

PFAW: Time Running Out for Senate Confirmation of Four Circuit Court Nominees

WASHINGTON – The Senate is leaving town for the Christmas holiday without holding confirmation votes on four federal appeals court nominees who have been waiting six to nine months for approval from the full Senate. These nominees – Third Circuit nominee Patty Shwartz of New Jersey, First Circuit nominee William Kayatta of Maine, Tenth Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma and Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto – all have the backing of their home-state senators, Democratic and Republican. Senate Republicans have blocked Shwartz’s nomination for over nine months, Kayatta’s and Taranto’s for eight, and Bacharach’s for six.

Senate Republicans are, however, finally allowing votes on three long-delayed district court nominees, Matthew Brann and Malachy Mannion for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Jon Tigar for the Northern District of California. All three will fill officially designated emergency vacancies. Brann will take over at a courthouse in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, which has not had a serving federal judge since July 2011. Yet all three have been delayed on the Senate floor for over four months.

“It’s bad enough that entirely uncontroversial trial court nominees like Brann, Mannion and Tigar are forced to wait months before the Senate will allow them to fill emergency vacancies,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Yet Senate Republicans have the audacity as they leave town to claim credit for finally doing something they should have done back in September. Meanwhile, key circuit court vacancies have been left unfilled, some for nearly three-quarters of a year, despite the absence of any substantive concerns about the nominees’ qualifications. The Senate’s role is to advise and consent, not to obstruct and delay. Senate Republicans should take this duty seriously and allow votes on all pending nominees before the end of the year.”

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Six Months Since Last Circuit Court Confirmation, PFAW Urges Senate Action on All Nominees

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, six months after the last Senate confirmation vote on a federal circuit court nominee, People For the American Way urged Senate Republicans to agree to votes on all remaining federal judicial nominees.

“It is highly unusual to go six months without a vote on a single federal circuit court nominee, outside of a presidential transition,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “And it’s even more unusual for these kinds of delays to be thrown at unquestionably qualified and uncontroversial nominees.”

There are currently 13 district court nominees and four circuit court nominees waiting for Senate votes. Circuit courts have a uniquely important role in our system of justice, and the four circuit court nominees have been blocked longer than any of the others. Tenth Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma has been waiting six months for a confirmation vote; First Circuit nominee William Kayatta of Maine has been waiting roughly eight months, as has Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto. Third Circuit nominee Patty Shwartz of New Jersey has been waiting a full nine months for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. All have extraordinary qualifications and the support of their home-state senators, Democratic and Republican. In fact, if they are ever allowed a floor vote, most of the circuit court nominees can count on a unanimous or near-unanimous confirmation. Their only “flaw” is that Republicans oppose the president who nominated them.

“Under pressure, Senate Republicans have finally allowed some progress in recent days in the confirmation of a handful of consensus district court nominees who should have been confirmed months before the election,” continued Baker. “But there is no reason why every one of the nominees currently on the Senate calendar shouldn’t have an up-or-down vote before the end of the term. More than ten percent of all circuit court judgeships are vacant or soon to become vacant. Given this vacancy crisis, and with nominees like these four, it is inexcusable for Senate Republicans to allow half a year to go by without lifting their blanket blockade on all circuit court judges.”
 

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Pending Judicial Nominations Pile Up

Republicans resist lame duck confirmations that have been made necessary by their own obstruction.
PFAW

More Dissembling from Chuck Grassley

Sen. Grassley again offers a blizzard of misleading statistics to hide his party's obstruction of President Obama's judicial nominees.
PFAW

Grassley's Non-Response on Judicial Nominations

Chuck Grassley issues a misleading response to complaints about his obstruction of resident Obama's judicial nominees.
PFAW

GOP Bad Faith on the Pace of Confirmations

Since a bipartisan agreement on judges ended in May, the rate of confirmations that Republicans have consented to has plummeted.
PFAW

Florida Federal Judge: We Need More Judges!

One of the district's vacancies could have been filled many months ago, if only Republicans would stop their blanket obstruction.
PFAW

Lame Duck - Time to Confirm All the Pending Nominees

Don't believe the latest Republican spin to justify their obstruction of judicial nominations even during the lame duck session.
PFAW

Demise of Another GOP Talking Point on Judicial Nominations

The GOP claim that confirmation times for Obama's judicial nominees should be compared to Bush's second term falls apart.
PFAW

Judicial Obstruction in Graphic Form

Even for judicial nominees with no opposition, Republican opposition is setting records.
PFAW

More Court Vacancies, More GOP Obstruction

Republicans are blocking judicial nominees in Illinois and California, even though new vacancies in those states were announced just this morning.
PFAW

Senate GOP Refuses to Allow Votes on 17 Judicial Nominees; Sharp Break from Past Practice

Washington, DC – Senate Republicans today refused to allow a vote on 17 pending federal district court nominees before leaving for recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requested unanimous consent to take up and confirm all 17 district court nominations on the calendar. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refused, despite the fact that most of the nominees have strong bipartisan support and some have been waiting as long as five months for a Senate vote. Twelve of the pending nominees would fill seats that the Administrative Office of the US Courts has declared “judicial emergencies.”

There is strong precedent for the Senate confirming district court nominees before the end of a President’s term in office. In September of 2008, the Senate confirmed President Bush’s ten remaining district court nominees by unanimous consent one day after they were approved by the Judiciary Committee.

“Under the leadership of Sen. McConnell, Senate Republicans have taken obstruction to a new level,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Never before have district court nominees been subject to this amount of partisan obstruction. Democrats have been forced to file cloture petitions to break filibusters on 20 of President Obama’s district court nominees, compared to just one each under Presidents Bush and Clinton. President Obama’s district court nominees have had to wait three times as long as President Bush’s just for an up-or-down vote. This has nothing to do with the quality of the nominees -- once they reach a vote, the vast majority have been approved nearly unanimously. Indeed, most of the 17 nominees that the GOP rejected today were approved with bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee. All have had the support of their home-state senators, Republican and Democratic.

“This obstruction has nothing to do with the nominees and everything to do with the GOP’s desire to obstruct Senate business at all costs. These costs can be seen in the twelve judicial emergencies that remain vacant because of this obstructionism. Senators Reid and Leahy are right to prioritize the confirmation of these nominees. Backlogs in the courts are ultimately passed down to Americans seeking justice. Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP must stop playing political games with our courts.”

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Sen. Confirmed 10 Judges One Day After Committee Vote in Sept 2008

In the last presidential election year, the Senate confirmed 10 judges in September, just a day after committee approval. Why not this year?
PFAW

Leahy Urges Confirmation Votes for Judges

Republicans should allow the Senate to vote on all of the 17 pending district court nominations.
PFAW

A Diversity Milestone for Federal Judges

President Obama had as many women judges confirmed as Bush did in 8 years, but Republicans are preventing votes that would further diversify our courts.
PFAW
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