Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, issued a prepared floor statement yesterday with a hailstorm of misleading or irrelevant facts and figures designed to hide one inescapable fact: Senate Republicans have been obstructing President Obama's judicial nominees in an unprecedented manner. The GOP has taken full partisan advantage of Senate rules requiring the consent of the minority party before the majority can schedule a confirmation vote.
Fact: Even though the overwhelming majority of President Obama's nominees have been consensus nominees, they have been forced to wait on the Senate floor for a vote three times longer than was the case for George W. Bush's nominees at the same point in his presidency. That creates months of needless delay.
Yesterday, for instance, Maryland's Paul Grimm was confirmed 92-1 to a district court judgeship almost six months to the day after being approved by the Judiciary Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. No explanation was ever provided as to why it took half a year to allow the Democratic leadership to schedule a simple confirmation vote on a consensus district court nominee. Grimm is only one of 19 judicial nominees whose nominations have been languishing for month after month, most having little to no opposition.
So during discussion of Grimm's nomination, how did Sen. Grassley explain why his party routinely refuses to allow Senate votes even on judicial nominees?
By avoiding the topic completely. Instead, he patted his party on the back for allowing any votes at all during the lame duck, saying how unusual they have been in the past 40 years.
Of course, when the Senate is allowed to vote on a president's nominees in a timely manner, you don't have a huge backlog after the election still needing confirmation. Sen. Grassley didn't mention that.
Nor did he mention that when there has been such a backlog as we have now, lame duck votes have been held. After the 2002 midterm elections, for instance, the Senate confirmed 20 of President Bush's circuit and district court nominees in the space of one week in November. And in December 2010, during the most recent lame duck, the Senate confirmed 19 judges in a week.
Senator Grassley also bragged that his party had allowed the Senate to confirm a total of 37 nominees this year, more than during the last presidential year of 2008. However, Grassley disingenuously left out a vital piece of information: Because of his party's obstruction, most of those 37 were nominees who had been pending on the Senate floor since the previous year. In fact, the Senate spent the entire first four months of the year getting through nominees it could have voted on in 2011.
The Iowa senator has yet to address why his party blocks confirmation votes on President Obama's judicial nominees as a matter of course for month after month, regardless of who the nominee is. This is his second effort in the past week at such sleight of hand. The energy he takes coming up with bogus arguments would be better spent doing his job.