Because Republicans are now filibustering every judicial nominee and generally requiring hours of needless “post-cloture debate” before an actual confirmation vote can be held, it has been harder than ever to “clear the calendar” (which is Senate lingo for “hold confirmation votes on all the nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and are pending on the Senate floor”). Among the 31 nominees left hanging when the Senate took off for its spring recess last week are six circuit court nominees.
Five of the six were nominated last year; the sixth was nominated in February and was fully vetted by the Judiciary Committee earlier this month. Every one of these nominees should have a confirmation vote this spring, and any circuit nominees cleared by the committee in the coming months should have a confirmation vote before the Senate recesses for the midterm elections.
This would hardly be exceptional. In 2006, at this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, the Senate confirmed eight circuit court nominees between April and September (plus a ninth during the lame duck session). Most of them had not even been nominated at this point in 2006 yet were confirmed by year’s end, all but one before the Senate recessed for the midterms. These circuit court nominees went all the way from nomination to confirmation as little as 3½ months, 2½ months, and (in two cases) just two months.
Exceptional? Hardly. Only by redefining the current era of Republican obstruction as normal can the efficient processing of circuit court nominations be regarded as exceptional.
If the Senate in 2006 could confirm so many of President Bush’s circuit court nominees so quickly, then why apply a different set of rules to President Obama’s nominees?
Perhaps that is a question to ask Senate Republicans in the coming weeks if they have the audacity to demand an even slower pace on President Obama’s nominees as the midterm elections approach.