People For the American Way

Demise of Another GOP Talking Point on Judicial Nominations

Senate Republicans have engaged in unprecedented obstruction to prevent President Obama from naming qualified jurists to sit on our nation’s circuit and district courts. They have done this by ruthlessly abusing Senate rules that prohibit the majority leader from scheduling a confirmation vote without the prior approval of the minority party. Every time Republicans refuse to grant what in the past was a routine okay for a consensus nominee, they exercise a silent and invisible filibuster. So despite the fact that most of President Obama’s nominees have overwhelming bipartisan support, the average confirmed judge has been forced to wait more than three times as long after committee approval for a floor vote as George W. Bush’s judges at the same point in his presidency.

Senate Republicans have also apparently put quite a lot of energy into coming up with ways to hide this obvious fact. For instance, since the term-to-date comparisons are so revealing, the Senate Republican Policy Committee claims that they are irrelevant. Instead, we should compare Obama’s first term with Bush’s second term:

During President Bush’s second term and President Obama’s first term, both presidents nominated two Supreme Court Justices. Supreme Court nominations require far more time and effort both by the Judiciary Committee and the rest of the Senate, and leave less time for considering other judges. That is why the fairest comparison is how each President fared during the presidential term in which he had Supreme Court nominations.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell repeated this claim last month when blocking the Senate from voting on 19 long-pending nominees – almost all with overwhelming bipartisan support – before the Senate left town until after the election.

President Obama is also faring much better overall than President Bush did in his second term, which is the last time the Senate considered and confirmed two Supreme Court nominees. The reason I bring that up is because Supreme Court nominees take a lot of time and effort. President Obama, of course, did have two Supreme Court nominees confirmed during his first term.

Unfortunately for the GOP, this comparison does not help them at all. During Bush’s second term, the average confirmed Bush nominee was allowed a floor vote much sooner after committee approval than has been the case for Obama nominees. The disparity is particular egregious with district courts, which at one time were generally immune from partisan gamesmanship.

  • District Courts: 33 days (Bush) vs. 97 days (Obama)
  • Circuit Courts: 95 days (Bush) vs. 135 days (Obama)

It’s no wonder that Republicans use the second term talking point without saying what the wait-time numbers actually are. While no one should take seriously this “second term” nonsense, it’s really their record of unprecedented obstruction that the GOP should be ashamed of.


judges, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Mitch McConnell, Obstruction, Obstructionism, Senate Republican Policy Committee