The Judiciary Committee has announced that it will hold an executive meeting this Thursday morning, and a vote on Third Circuit nominee L. Felipe Restrepo is on the agenda.
But with very, very few exceptions, President Obama’s judicial nominees have learned that being scheduled for a committee vote is not a guarantee that the vote will happen. In fact, once Obama became president, Republicans exercised the right of the minority party to have a committee vote “held over” (delayed) by at least a week without cause in all but 12 instances for President Obama’s judicial nominees, which is an unprecedented abuse of the rules. They have continued this practice as the majority party.
Yet there have been exceptions. For instance, the nominee to replace Arizona’s murdered Judge Roll did not have her committee vote needlessly held over. Nor did six Arizona nominees up for a vote on the same day last year at a time when that state was facing a judicial emergency. In those cases, the state’s senators were willing to ask their fellow Republicans not to hold up vitally important committee votes. Politics and partisanship took a back seat on those days.
There surely isn’t any doubt about the need to fill the Third Circuit vacancy as soon as possible. It has been formally designated a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, meaning there just aren’t enough judges to handle the caseload.
Plus there’s a ticking clock: On July 1, Judge Marjorie Rendell will be taking senior status, thus creating yet another vacancy on a court that isn’t effectively handling the first one. As for Restrepo himself, he has the strong support of his home state senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey.
With the Senate out next week for its Independence Day recess, holding the vote over will delay it by at least two weeks, to July 9. Why should Judge Restrepo’s committee vote be delayed for two weeks?
This is an opportunity for Pat Toomey to show leadership. He can – and should – push for a committee vote this week. If he has any influence among his colleagues, they will listen to him.
Pat Toomey says he supports this nomination. His words have been wonderful. But now is the time for deeds, not words.