As has been the case throughout most of the Obama presidency, there are a host of judicial nominees with bipartisan support pending on the Senate floor. The 19 nominees ready for an immediate confirmation vote would alleviate the vacancy crisis on the federal courts that has left sitting judges overburdened, and pending cases inordinately delayed.
The Republican obstruction that has characterized most of the Obama presidency became particularly acute during the election, as Republicans invoked the so-called “Thurmond rule” to stop judicial confirmations during election season. But now that the election is over, several Republicans are joining Democrats in lamenting the strains caused by this persistently high judicial vacancy rate, and calling for immediate post-election confirmations.
“Now that the elections are behind us, I write to urge you to move forward expeditiously to schedule votes on non-controversial judicial nominees who have bipartisan support,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) wrote in a letter to Senate leadership.
Other Republicans who are calling for confirmations include Oklahoma senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, who are hoping that their state’s stalled nominees will now “fly through.” Even when obstructionist rhetoric was at its height, some senators like Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in defending their obstruction that “[if] there are excellent nominees by the president to the circuit courts, well, the election is only four months away. If he is re-elected, they can be confirmed in November and December.” But support for post-election confirmations is not shared by all senators, and it only takes one to hold the process and the courts hostage.
“That’s not going to happen in the lame-duck,” Hatch said in an interview with Roll Call. “That will have to wait until next year.”
All of these nominees have already been waiting at least five months, and a few have waited more than a year. President Obama is poised to become the first president in recent history to end his term with more vacancies on the federal courts than he inherited. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser points out in a recent column for the American Prospect, President Obama is not without fault for this, having failed put his political muscle behind judicial nominations. But 19 of those he did nominate have been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee as fit to serve, and there is no reason they shouldn’t start serving tomorrow.