The lame duck session of Congress presents the Senate with an opportunity – and the obligation – to confirm nominees. Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy both discussed the importance of confirming judicial and executive nominations during the lame duck.
Sen. Reid made clear that the Senate cannot leave town for the year without finishing its work of confirming nominees:
[Although] we have been able to get a lot of judges done, we are going to wind up–by the time the Judiciary Committee continues to do the good work they do, we will probably have over 20 judges who need to be approved this Congress. Postcloture, under the rules we have, there is only 1 hour of time that can be used, so we can get through the judges very quickly. For sub-Cabinet officers it takes 8 hours, and we are normally willing to yield back our time, so 4 hours on every one of those.
We have scores–we are approaching, counting judges and all of the nominations, well over 150 who have been held up, people who have been waiting and waiting. These are jobs that are needed in our country; these are not new positions we have created.
So I would hope we can get past the bitterness that has been created in this body and get the nominations done. There is no reason a judge-to-be should have to wait for all this time, as the Senator from Vermont has indicated, just to get a vote. Whatever he is doing now has been put on hold, and this is throughout the whole government.
So I would hope we can get a lot of these done. If not, we are going to have to spend a lot of time here because we cannot leave this Congress with all these things undone. I hope we can work together, as I have indicated. [emphasis supplied]
Sen. Leahy noted that this would be consistent with lame duck sessions in the past:
So let us work together as we have in past lame duck sessions to get these nominees confirmed and serving their communities. In 2002, after the midterm elections, Senate Democrats worked to confirm all 20 of President Bush's judicial nominees pending on the Executive Calendar all but one by voice vote. In the 2006 lame duck session, after Senate Democrats won the majority in the elections, Democrats agreed to confirm all 14 of President Bush's judicial nominations pending on the Executive Calendar, but this package was blocked by a Republican Senator. In the most recent lame duck sessions, in 2010 and 2012, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. We should do the same now.
There is simply no legitimate reason not to hold confirmation votes on so many nominees who have been fully vetted and approved in committee. We need a government that functions, and we cannot have that if vital judicial and executive positions are left unfilled. America can do better than that.