Federal Courts and Nominations

CRS Confirms Historic Obstruction of President Obama’s Judicial Nominees

In a report issued by the Congressional Research Service on May 2, 2013 analyzing and comparing the Senate fate of President Obama’s lower court nominees with those of all Presidents since Ronald Reagan (during their first terms), CRS confirmed what Constitutional Accountability Center has been saying for years – that Senate Republicans’ obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees during his first term has been unprecedented.  In the past, partisan warfare over judicial nominees was confined to a relatively narrow category of nominees deemed controversial, while uncontroversial nominees voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee during prior Administrations could expect a quick confirmation on the Senate floor.  That all changed with Senate Republicans’ treatment of President Obama’s nominees.

For example, according to the CRS report, which among other things examined the time from Committee vote to confirmation vote for those nominees who were unopposed in Committee and on the floor, it took less than a month (29.3 days) on average for President George W. Bush’s unopposed Circuit Court nominees to be confirmed after being voted out of Committee.  That average time to confirmation skyrocketed during President Obama’s first term to more than four months (124.7 days).  The average wait from Committee vote to confirmation for President Bush’s unopposed District Court nominees was just barely over a month (32.4 days), while President Obama’s unopposed District Court nominees had to wait nearly three times as long (89 days).  Again, this was the wait for a floor vote by nominees who did not receive a “no” vote from any Senator

And, according to CRS, with respect to all of President Obama’s judicial nominees confirmed during his first term, the wait from Committee vote to floor vote “reached historically high levels.”  For Obama’s Circuit Court nominees, the average wait was 138.5 days; for G.W. Bush Circuit Court nominees, it was only 35.3 days.  Obama’s District Court nominees waited an average of 98.5 days from Committee vote to confirmation, while that wait averaged only 34.9 days for the Bush District Court nominees.  

President Obama’s opponents in the Senate may trot out various excuses for the judicial vacancy crisis that has beset our federal courts and delayed or denied justice for Americans across the country, but they are the ones to blame for the record-setting delays in holding confirmation votes on nominees who have been reported out of the Judiciary Committee.  It should not take 263 days after being voted out of Committee for a nominee to be confirmed 93-0, as it did Robert Bacharach.  Or 347 days for a nominee to be confirmed 91-0, as it did Richard Taranto.  That’s just partisan obstruction, pure and simple.

And, in the interests of justice, it needs to stop.

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