Federal Courts and Nominations

Senators Vote Overwhelmingly to End Filibuster of Judicial Nominee, Blasting Conduct as ‘Ridiculous’

by Nicole Flatow

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid successfully overcame the filibuster today of U.S. District Judge Adalberto José Jordán to fill a seat considered a judicial emergency on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

By a vote of 89-5, senators voted to invoke cloture and force an up-or-down vote on Jordán’s confirmation. But Sen. Rand Paul is holding up a final confirmation vote until the 30 hours of legally permitted debate has elapsed, in an effort to force action on his proposal to cut off aid to Egypt when U.S. citizens are detained, according to Politico.

Sens. Bill Nelson, Barbara Boxer and Patrick Leahy all blasted the move by “one senator” to hold up Jordán’s nomination even after the successful cloture vote.

“I want to point out to the people of this country who may be watching this proceeding that what’s happened here on the Senate floor is just ridiculous,” Boxer said. “… One senator is stopping us from being able to ensure that justice is done.”

“This is beneath the United States Senate of America,” said Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Jordán, who would be the first Cuban-born judge on the Eleventh Circuit, was nominated with overwhelming bipartisan support in August. He was rated unanimously well-qualified by the American Bar Association, was confirmed by the Senate to his current seat 93-1 and was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October. Jordán even had the support of both of his home-state senators, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

“It is … no surprise that his nomination was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee nearly four months ago,” Leahy said last week. “The surprise is that Senate Republicans continue to stall action on this nomination for no good reason.”

Fed up with the persistent inaction on consensus nominees like Jordán, Reid moved Thursday to invoke cloture and force a vote on Jordán.

Monday night’s successful vote was a small victory in the effort to end the judicial vacancy crisis. But the vote was just the first of two – the Senate must still hold a vote on whether or not Jordán will be confirmed. And 19 more fully vetted nominees are awaiting immediate Senate action, almost all of which have been ready for an up-or-down vote since before the Senate left for its winter recess.

With the confirmation last week of Cathy Ann Bencivengo to a California federal district court, 90 senators bucked a radical threat by Sen. Mike Lee to stall action on every single nominee in retaliation against President Obama’s nominations of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three others to the National Labor Relations Board. (Lee and a few other Republicans did make good on their promise and voted against Bencivengo).

But as the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Judith Schaeffer points out in a post for Text & History Blog, Lee is far from the only senator responsible for Senate obstruction and “he should not be the only one feeling the heat.”

While Senator Lee at least has been candid about what he is doing, conservatives in the Senate have been abusing Senate rules since the beginning of the Obama Administration to keep the President from filling vacancies on the federal bench. The result is a vacancy crisis on the federal courts that is delaying and denying justice to Americans across the country.

In fact, this is the eighth time Reid has had to take the extreme measure of filing a motion for cloture to force a vote on one of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

“It is the American people who pay the price for the Senate’s unnecessary and harmful delay in confirming judges to our Federal courts,” Leahy said in a statement today. “It is unacceptable for hardworking Americans who are seeking their day in court to find one in 10 of those courts vacant.  When an injured plaintiff sues to help cover the cost of medical expenses, that plaintiff should not have to wait for years before a judge hears his or her case.  When two small business owners disagree over a contract, they should not have to wait years for a court to resolve their dispute.”

For more information and to follow developments, visit JudicialNominations.org.

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