Senate Republicans have escalated their sabotage of the judicial nominations process this week, most recently by forcing the Senate to wait until 1:00 am this morning to hold a confirmation vote on Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will keep the Senate in session for the rest of the week in order to hold what should be routine confirmation votes, which are being needlessly delayed by these GOP antics.
The obstruction isn't just on the Senate floor: This morning, Republicans prevented the Senate Judiciary Committee from even meeting.
Under a rarely enforced Senate rule, committees can't meet more than two hours after the Senate goes into session. Routinely, senators give unanimous consent to waive the rule so the committee can carry out the chamber's – and the country's – business. But today, Republicans refused unanimous consent to let the Judiciary Committee meet.
The committee has a busy schedule, with votes scheduled for 15 judicial nominees who have testified before the members and answered follow-up written questions. Among those are nominees for vacancies designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Each one of the nominees has been fully vetted and has the support of their home state senators, including Republicans Mark Kirk (IL), Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran (KS), Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (TN), Roy Blunt (MO), and Pat Toomey (PA).
But Senate Republicans just don't care.
To make things worse, even had the committee meeting been held, Republicans were expected to abuse another rule: As they have done with only five exceptions since Obama became president, they almost certainly would have demanded that the committee delay votes on these nominees for at least a week without giving a reason, a right under committee rules that they have abused and made a standard part of their mechanism of obstruction. But since the committee didn't meet, they haven't even crossed that hurdle yet.
If the committee is not able to meet until next week – the last week the Senate is expected to be in session – and Republicans force the nominees to be held over, then they'll be stuck in committee at year's end. Since that will be the end of a session of Congress, absent unanimous consent to do otherwise, Senate rules require the nominees to be sent back to the president for renomination in the next session. That would force all of these nominees to repeat the committee voting process all over again, where once again the GOP could find new ways to slow them down.