Senator Chuck Grassley Falsely Claims GOP Has Only Blocked Four Obama Judicial Nominees


Amid new calls to revisit the Senate rules that allow a minority of 41 Senators to block confirmation of judicial nominees with majority support, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee took to CNN Tuesday to defend his party’s obstruction. In the interview, he falsely claimed that his has only blocked four of President Obama’s nominees.

In the past few weeks, Grassley and other minority Republicans have filibustered confirmation of three nominees to the D.C. Circuit — despite having argued in 2005 that requiring a 60-vote super-majority for judges would be unconstitutional. With little debate on their actual qualifications, Republicans blocked cloture on Robert L. Wilkins, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and Patricia Ann Millett — denying them the up-or-down confirmation votes they used to claim were constitutionally required.

Previously, Grassley and other Republicans have used the same rules to block other nominees including Goodwin Liu and Caitlin Halligan.

But Grassley claimed Monday that Obama should not be complaining, because the vast majority of judicial nominees have been approved:

GRASSLEY: He has nothing to complain about Congress doing its job, the Senate doing its job to confirm. Because we have confirmed about 208 judicial nominees of his and we’ve only disapproved of four. And that’d would be about a 99% approval rating. So I think he has done very well.

Watch the video:

Grassley is of course wrong — he has been a part of five successful judicial filibusters since the start of 2011. But he also conveniently ignores that many other nominees have not even gotten to cloture votes, thanks to other procedural mechanisms for holding up nominees. Under the bipartisan “blue slip” process, home state Senators may unilaterally hold up any judicial nominee from their state. Numerous other nominees have been blocked indefinitely under this system, without an up-or-down vote or even a cloture vote. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been using the “blue slip” rule to block a nominee who would be the first openly gay African American man to serve as a federal judge. And before the Senate made a deal last year, they frequently turned to another tool that allowed just one senator to anonymously hold up a nomination.

According to the American Constitution Society, fewer of Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed than had been at a comparable point in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies.


An earlier version of this post included Robert E. Bacharach among the judicial nominees blocked. While Grassley and other Senators initially filibustered his nomination, he was eventually confirmed.

Share Update