Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Judicial Nominations Update

Two pieces of news today:

First, the Senate approved the nomination of Patty Shwartz to the 3rd Circuit appeals court by a 64-34 vote; Frank Lautenberg remains missing, so that's ten Republicans voting for her after the GOP first agreed not to force a cloture vote. Schwartz was first nominated in October 2011 for a seat that has been vacant since June 2011. Progress! This is the fifth appeals court judge confirmed by the Senate this year, leaving 16 such spots on the bench open. Progress!

Or not...that's a long time to confirm a nomination, even one that did have significant dissent. It remains the case that Republicans are filibustering virtually everything, forcing 60 votes instead of a simple majority and often forcing delays even when they don't have the votes to defeat nominations. On the other hand, claims (and I hear them all the time) that things couldn't be worse because Republicans are currently blocking everything...well, it's not quite that bad.

The other news is that Harry Reid says that Barack Obama will soon be nominating people for the remaining three vacancies on the DC Circuit court. Recall that there are four openings on that panel; one Obama nominee was defeated by filibuster in March, while a second, Sri Srinivasan, is getting a Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow. If true, that's important -- the White House failure to make judges a priority has been most obvious on these DC Circuit vacancies, which are both extremely important and are not blocked by the tradition of deferring to home-state Senators.

On the other hand...well, we've heard this before, and I'll believe it when I see the three new nominees.

If it turns out that Republicans are blockading DC Circuit nominations...well, that certainly would strengthen the incentives for Democrats to resort to party-imposed Senate reform. If not, then we'll have some judges confirmed. If, that is, there are nominated judges to get the whole process rolling. This isn't the first time that the Obama Administration has signaled an intention to do better on nominations; sometimes they've followed up and sometimes they haven't. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


  1. Wasn't the Shwartz case a little bit unusual in that the initial opposition was from Menendez? (Yes, I know he changed his mind, but still it gave an excuse for the GOP to delay confirmation until they said they wouldn't allow any more judges to be confirmed until after the election. "What were these legal questions he said she couldn't answer?" "Did she promise him anything to get him to withdraw his opposition?" Etc.)

  2. Jonathan, what do you think is the reason for Obama's extremely slow pace of nominations? There are 87 vacancies in the judiciary as of yesterday, and only 25 nominees pending before the Senate. Even accounting for Republican obstructionism, it really does seem as if Obama is not even trying.

  3. David -- yes, that's true.

    Pedro -- I have no idea. Some of it is GOP obstruction, but some of it has definitely been lack of interest/effort from the WH. I haven't seen a reasonable explanation or any good reporting on it yet.


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