People For the American Way

Senators Speak Out for Judicial Confirmations

On the Senate floor yesterday, several Democratic senators discussing abuse of the Senate's rules spoke about how Republican obstruction of judicial nominations is damaging the nation's system of justice.

Maryland's Ben Cardin noted how GOP obstruction is limiting the pool of qualified people willing to become federal judges:

I have talked to people in Maryland who are very reluctant to put their names forward because they do not want to put their families and themselves through the uncertainty. … [Let's say] you are the most distinguished person for this job, the person everybody wants, not partisan at all, no controversy. The Bar Association will give you the highest ratings. You have already been vetted through the FBI process. There is nothing in your background that would raise a concern with anyone. But you look at the calendar here and say: If I go through this, I am going to be on this calendar for at least 6 months, it looks like. What does that do to my law firm? Can I try cases? What do I do for the next 6 months? It is not fair to me, it is not fair to my law firm, and it is not fair to my family. So you are not going to put yourself forward.

New Mexico's Tom Udall noted the impact on the critically important circuit courts:

In many of these circuits where these judges are sitting — these nominees are waiting month after month, and we have judicial emergencies. We have a chronic problem of moving cases in these circuits, where the administrators of the courts—these are independent branches of government—tell us they cannot do their job because they do not have the manpower to do it. And we are holding up confirmations not because of any substantive reason but because of the process or because of one person in the Senate who, for reasons unrelated to that individual, is holding up all of these nominations.

Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse noted the absurdity of Republicans demanding concessions in return for their not blocking confirmation votes for unquestionably qualified consensus nominees:

When you see judges who have been cleared in the Judiciary Committee unanimously sitting on the Executive Calendar in what has become a hostage pool for purposes of trading–these are judges who are ready to go, and there may very well be a judicial emergency in their district; they have Republican and Democratic support, and they are held hostage to be used as trading pieces on either judges or other issues–I think that is a very poor way to go about doing business, particularly when you consider where that leaves an individual who has put their life on hold waiting to see if they will be confirmed, and all they are is a pawn in a chess game, even though everybody thinks that substantively they are qualified and should serve as judges.

None of these legislators has a nominee from their state among those who will have to be renominated because they were unfairly denied a yes-or-no vote. Nevertheless, these three senators recognize that the unwarranted obstruction of judicial nominations has created a serious problem that affects the entire country.


Ben Cardin, judges, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall