Because approximately one federal judge retires every week, this means that the federal bench is currently losing judges twice as fast as new ones are being confirmed. And this near-shutdown in judicial confirmations is nothing new. The moment President Obama took office, Senate Republicans launched an unprecedented game of obstruction against his judicial nominees, slowing the judicial confirmation to just over half what it was during at this point in the last two presidencies:
And, of course, this practice is hardly limited to federal judgeships. Republicans promised to filibuster Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray — or anyone else nominated to head that agency — before President Obama even named Cordray. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) even threatened to block every single item of business that comes before the Senate unless Congress slashes federal spending by a massive 37 percent.
So we’re witnessing a massive, multi-pronged effort to dismantle the federal government’s ability to function at all, and the blockade on new judges is a very significant part of that effort.