Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Cranky Blogging 2

So there's a Philip Rucker WaPo article called "Obama pushing to diversify federal judiciary amid GOP delays." Which isn't bad, but I think I would have gone with "We were spun by all sides."

Okay, it's a long article, and the stuff about the diversity of Obama's judicial selections and the GOP reaction to it are fine (well, the GOP reaction is a joke, but it's what they say and reported as such). But two other problems here made me extremely cranky. Quickly: the article massively undersells GOP filibustering, and accepts a White House spin about "moving quickly" on judicial nominations that, so far, is not true.

The smaller problem: Rucker really undersells how important Republican filibusters have been in blocking Obama's judicial nominations. We learn up top that "Obama’s biggest obstacle is the Senate, where Republicans have frequently blocked judicial confirmation votes for months or, in some cases, years." But we're not told that they've blocked those picks by filibustering. Perhaps Rucker thinks that's just understood, but he shouldn't; we need to know (and are not told) that it's a minority of the Senate that has blocked these picks. There's a sideways reference to filibusters several paragraphs down, when we learn that "changes in filibuster rules will help speed up the process. The Senate decided in January to limit debate for district court nominees from 30 hours to two hours" for district judges, but that's not an adequate explanation at all. The change is for post-cloture time, and is at best only relevant to those picks that already have demonstrated supermajority support. Indeed, any proper discussion of GOP obstruction should include (1) filibusters that can have killed nominations with the support of 41 or more Republicans; (2) filibusters that have blocked nominations despite having the support of fewer than 41, and sometimes only a handful or none at all; and (3) Republican "blue slip" and other efforts to block nominations. Bottom line: minority filibusters and other obstruction of judicial nominations (and everything else) shouldn't be regarded as part of the normal operation of the Senate.

But that's not what makes me really cranky! It's this:
Reelected with strong support from women, ethnic minorities and gays, Obama is moving quickly to change the face of the federal judiciary by the end of his second term, setting the stage for another series of drawn-out confrontations with Republicans in Congress.

The president has named three dozen judicial candidates since January and is expected to nominate scores more over the next few months, aides said. The push marks a significant departure from the sluggish pace of appointments throughout much of his first term...

Obama’s biggest obstacle is the Senate, where Republicans have frequently blocked judicial confirmation votes for months or, in some cases, years. Obama has 35 nominees currently awaiting votes by the Senate — including several holdovers from 2012 who have been renominated this year — and there are more than 50 additional vacancies awaiting nominees, according to the Federal Judicial Center.
"Several" holdovers?

How about: all but four of those picks are holdovers.

Obama renominated over thirty holdovers on January 4, when the new Congress opened.

Since then, his "moving quickly" has consisted of...four new nominees.

Four new nominees. Three for current openings, and one more for a scheduled future vacancy.

Is that "moving quickly"? Well, since January 4, eleven judicial seats have become vacant. Nine more became vacant on December 31 or New Year's Day.

So it's nice to know that the Obama Administration plans to be more aggressive, but it hasn't happened yet; in fact, they're falling farther behind so far during the second term (for more details on all the vacancies without nominees, see here).

Partially, again, that does have to do with Republican obstruction. But the White House isn't complaining about that in this article; we're told only that Obama was accused of being slow to nominate judges during his first term but that's all in the past now.

It may be at some point, but it isn't now.

And all those vacancies and bad reporting about it, along with more bad reporting on filibusters and minority obstruction? Making me very cranky.


  1. Kevin Drum at MoJo has a great article about blue slips today, that's relevant to your crankiness. Apparently, judicial nominees must be approved by their home-state senators before they can be nominated. The current standard is that BOTH senators must send approval.

    So there's another side to GOP obstruction to add to your list.

  2. If Obama stakes a position, and the media fail to report it, did it happen?


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