In response to Senate Republicans' sharp escalation last week in obstructing circuit court nominees, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez has some simple advice for his colleagues: "Get back to work."
Last Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his party would block confirmation votes on all circuit court nominees, regardless of their qualifications, despite their overwhelming bipartisan support (including that of home state Republican senators), and heedless of the damage done to individuals and small businesses in areas without enough judges to ensure fully functioning courts. This distortion of what he calls the "Thurmond Rule" leaves highly qualified circuit court nominees who should have been confirmed a long time ago in a trap set by Republicans.
Sen. Menendez one of the senators whose states will be harmed by this effort to keep appellate courtrooms from fully functioning. He is calling on the GOP to "get back to work on judicial nominees." He focuses on Patty Shwartz, a nominee from New Jersey with broad bipartisan support from that state's elected officials, but also notes the other jurists who have been unjustly targeted.
The Republican move would block Judge Patty Shwartz, who was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and supported by Menendez, Senator [Frank] Lautenberg and Governor [Chris] Christie, as well as Richard Taranto for the federal circuit, William Kayatta for the First Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert Bacharach for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"It is ridiculous that Republicans are arbitrarily blocking all judicial nominees from this point forward," said Menendez. "With sky-high vacancies on the bench, how can Republicans stop working on nominations only six months into the year? I call on those Republicans who have joined with Democrats in the past to come forward and help get us back to work. These highly qualified judges deserve an up or down vote on the Senate floor now."
Which Republicans is he hoping might move beyond partisanship and do their jobs? Perhaps Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who claim to despise bitter partisanship and who support William Kayatta, one of the sabotaged nominees. Perhaps Scott Brown, who is desperately trying to convince the people of Massachusetts (which, like Maine, is in the First Circuit) that he has not "gone Washington" and abandoned them. Perhaps Tom Coburn, who has called his leader's decision "stupid" and who (like fellow Oklahoman Sen. Jim Inhofe) supports Robert Bacharach's pending nomination.
Will any Republican senators heed their colleague's call to get back to work?