People For the American Way

Senate GOP Living Up to Right Wing Vow to be a “Resistance Movement”

A few hours after losing their fight to block Nina Pillard from the DC Circuit, Senate Republicans continued their war against President Obama, the Democratic Party, and common-sense governance by forcing cloture votes to end their filibuster of two consensus district court nominees: Elizabeth Wolford would fill a judicial emergency in the Western District of New York, and Landya McCafferty was nominated to a district court in New Hampshire. Their nominations have been languishing on the Senate floor since they were approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee back on August 1 and September 19, respectively, as Senate Republicans stubbornly and quietly refused to allow a confirmation vote.

The GOP's complaints about Wolford and McCafferty would barely fill a fortune cookie: She was nominated by a Democratic president.

Unfortunately, with today's Republican Party, that is enough to warrant all-out obstruction, requiring cloture votes to break the filibusters. Despite being unquestionably qualified consensus nominees, Wolford and McCafferty's cloture votes were 55-41 and 58-40. Among those supporting the filibusters were all the Republican Judiciary Committee members, who had previously voted to advance the nominations. (Orrin Hatch voted "present" in one case, which has the same effect as voting against cloture.) Under the recent rules change, the filibusters were broken.

But Republicans were still able to obstruct: Senate rules allow up to two hours of debate on a district court nomination after a successful cloture vote, and the GOP insisted on using their half of the time. It took a while, but the Senate was at long last able to vote to confirm these two highly qualified women. Then the same thing happened with two consensus nominees to fill emergency vacancies in Montana: It took until late at night to overcome the GOP's filibusters and post-cloture time-wasting tactics, but they, too, were finally confirmed.

It shouldn't be this way. Republicans are pulling out the stops to sabotage the Senate for adopting a rules change that their own party first proposed and aggressively pushed when they held the Senate majority and the White House.

Unfortunately, they are living up to the vow made by right wing leaders in the opening days of the Obama presidency: to function as a "resistance movement" rather than as responsible participants in an electoral democracy.


Elizabeth Wolford, judges, judicial nominations, Landya McCafferty, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism