Time for Boozman to Speed Up Judicial Nominee

By Max Brantley

Coincidence. I wrote Glenn Sugamelli this morning. He tracks federal judicial appointments for Judging the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife. I wondered what he thought about the chances that the unprecedented Republican slowdown of federal judicial confirmations might imperil the committee-approved Senate confirmation of Kris Baker to a federal judgeship in the Eastern District of Arkansas

Good question, said Sugamelli, who provided a wealth of information. It mostly indicates a historic reluctance by the Senate to filibuster routine nominations. But who knows? And Obama’s term draws to a close, when nominations typically grind to a halt. A couple of votes are scheduled today on non-controversial nominees, not Baker.

Now the coincidence. Today, the Jonesboro Sun carried an op-ed by Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center. He writes that it’s time for Sen. John Boozman to get cracking on pushing through Baker’s appointment. He blames Republicans for the Senate’s failure to fulfill its advice and consent responsibility.

… the federal bench has been burdened with 80 or more vacant judgeships for nearly 1,000 days and counting — a sky-high number of vacancies over an alarming length of time that is both unprecedented and unforgivable. During a similar point in President George W. Bush’s first term, senators took an average of about 20 days to get a U.S. District Court nominee a vote on the Senate floor.

During President Barack Obama’s term? Roughly five times that long.

To make matters worse, 34 current vacancies have been officially designated “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, meaning 34 empty judicial seats are in courts with workloads so heavy that remaining judges are under great stress trying to process them.

Baker came out of committee Feb. 16 opposed only by Utah’s Mike Lee, who says he’ll oppose every Obama nominee regardless. So now the test of Boozman, writes Kendall:

This is where Sen. Boozman needs to step in. The effort to delay the confirmation of well-qualified and uncontroversial nominees like Kristine Baker is as pointless as it is harmful to the judiciary and to the lives of prospective public servants like Baker. Sen. Boozman should not let his colleague from Utah take out his political pique with the president upon the people of Arkansas and its courts.

The Senate’s inability to confirm federal judges in a timely manner is just one example of how partisan dysfunction in Washington is damaging our country, but it is a particularly glaring and fixable one, if senators such as Sen. Boozman are willing to show some political courage.

If he fights for her, Baker will become a judge, not a political pawn. It’s time for Sen. Boozman to step forward.

Boozman? Political courage?

 

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