Senate Completes Judicial Confirmation Deal, Now What?

Newly Confirmed Ninth Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Judges Jacqueline Nguyen, Kristine Gerhard Baker, and John Lee to the Ninth Circuit and to federal trial courts in Arkansas and Illinois — bringing to a close a 14 judge deal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) forced Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to strike when Reid threatened to force 17 votes to break Senate Republican filibusters of 17 different nominees. As we explained two months ago when this deal was struck, the deal represents a significant uptick in the rate of confirmations under President Obama, but it is far from enough to undo the three year campaign of obstructionism McConnell led the minute President Obama took office.

According to the Federal Judicial Center, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both had very similar judicial confirmation rates — 201 lower court judges were confirmed during Clinton’s first term, and 204 judges were confirmed under Bush. President Obama, by contrast, has seen only 142 judges confirmed so far according to the FJC’s data — or less than four judges for each month of his presidency. In order to catch up to his two predecessors, Obama will need to double that rate to about 7.5 judges a month for the rest of his current term.

The recently completed deal, however, proves that this rate is achievable. Indeed, 7.5 judges a month is almost exactly the rate of confirmations achieved under this deal. There is simply no reason why the Senate cannot repeat its recent performance and catch up to a normal rate of confirmations by the time either Obama or Mitt Romney takes the oath of office next January.