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Toomey Slow-Walking the Restrepo Nomination

May 13, 2015
If Senator Toomey Really Wants to Move Judge Restrepo’s Nomination Along, He Should be Writing to Senator Grassley, Not to a Newspaper
On May 13, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a letter to the editor from Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in which the Senator claims that he is not behind the incomprehensible delay in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the nomination of District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Sen. Toomey’s letter was a response to an editorial published by the same paper on May 10, which took Toomey to task for Restrepo’s “stalled nomination.”  
As the editorial recounted, Toomey has failed to return his “blue slip” on Judge Restrepo to the Committee – a piece of paper that indicates a home-state Senator’s approval of a judicial nominee and without which it is Committee practice not to proceed with the consideration of the nominee.  But according to Senator Toomey, the fact that the Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing for Judge Restrepo even though he was nominated six months ago has nothing to do with Toomey’s acknowledged failure to return his blue slip, but is due to the fact that the Committee “has not yet completed” its “thorough background investigation” of Judge Restrepo.
Really?  Six months since the nomination and the background investigation has not been completed?  This is hard to fathom, for several reasons.  First, it appears that the investigation has been done -- Committee Democrats have completed their review of it.  There is no reason other than partisan slow-walking why Committee Republicans have not done the same.  Second, it’s not as though the Committee were starting from scratch here.  Restrepo was confirmed to a seat on the District Court a mere two years ago, following a thorough background check.  Since then, he’s served as a federal judge.  Finally, six other nominees who were nominated on or after Restrepo was nominated back on November 12, 2014 have had their hearings before the Committee.  
The Third Circuit seat to which Judge Restrepo has been nominated has been vacant for nearly two years and, as the Post-Gazette reported, has been declared a “judicial emergency” because of the “backlog of cases.”  The inexcusable delay in filling this vacancy is hurting everyone within the court’s jurisdiction – individuals and businesses alike – who must depend on the court for justice.  
Nonetheless, Sen. Toomey’s letter to the editor has an air of complacency about the Committee’s delay, as though there’s nothing he can do.  Well, I have a suggestion for him. Instead of writing to a newspaper to defend himself and throwing up his hands, he should write to Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) and demand that this delay come to an end. Better yet, he should march into Sen. Grassley’s office and say that six months is more than enough time for Republicans on the Committee to have reviewed the background check of a sitting federal judge nominated for elevation to the Court of Appeals, particularly when the Committee conducted a full review of that same nominee two years ago.   
Sen. Toomey’s letter to the editor would have been more convincing had the Senator recounted efforts he has taken to get the Judiciary Committee moving on the Restrepo nomination.