People For the American Way

The Senate Could Immediately Reduce the Vacancy Rate by a Third

Just a few days into the new session of Congress – with Senate Republicans having forced renominations of more than 50 judicial nominees – the Judiciary Committee has now fully vetted and advanced 29 of those nominees to the full Senate. For many of them, it is their second time on the Senate floor, since the committee approved them last year, too – unanimously in almost all cases.

Now nothing prevents the Senate from fulfilling its constitutional role of holding confirmation votes … nothing, that is, but the same type of escalated GOP obstruction that led to so many nominees being up for a committee vote in the first place. In this case, short of a formal cloture vote, Senate rules prevent the Senate from holding a confirmation vote if GOP obstructionists led by Senator McConnell object.

If McConnell allowed it, the Senate could vote this week to confirm these 29 nominees. Doing so would put an enormous dent in the vacancy rate that is weakening our nation's federal court system: In a single day, 31% of the nation's circuit and district court vacancies could be filled.

Among these 29 nominees are eight who would fill vacancies that have been formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would resolve 22% of our nation's judicial emergencies.

The alternative? Let the emergencies fester. Let the vacancy crisis continue unabated. Let a huge backlog of pending nominees form, guaranteeing longer and longer wait times for the dozens of nominees the Judiciary Committee will be advancing to the full Senate in the next weeks. Let America's judicial system continue to crumble into disrepair like our nation's roads and bridges.

Why would anyone think that's a good idea?


judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism