The moment President Obama started nominating new judges, Senate Republicans launched an unprecedented campaign of obstruction against his nominees. Indeed, federal judges are now retiring at more than twice the rate that they are being replaced, an unsustainable course that will eventually shutdown the judiciary’s ability to function. Both of President Obama’s two predecessors appointed far more judges at this point in their presidencies:
Some of this pressure will be released in the next two weeks, as the Senate reached a deal to confirm 10 pending nominees. Yet, as Nicole Flatow notes, the real story here is the 17 nominees who are ready for confirmation votes but will nonetheless remain behind a wall of obstructionism:
The deal moves forward several long-delayed nominees, but follows a pattern that has developed of leaving to languish many other nominees with bipartisan support. Among the 17 pending nominees that were not included in the deal, four have been awaiting a vote by the Senate since the 111th Congress, and six are considered judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Additionally, only one of the 10 nominees who will receive votes is a court of appeals nominee — the rest are nominated to relatively low-ranking district courts. And that sole court of appeals nominee, Judge Henry Floyd, is a George W. Bush appointee to the district court who is at least as much the choice of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as he is the choice of President Obama.
There is some good news in this recent package of soon-to-be-confirmed judges. Most notably, the package includes Allison Nathan, an openly gay attorney and former Supreme Court clerk. Still, Nathan and her nine new colleagues will do very little to overcome the growing vacancy crisis facing the federal bench.