‘Party of No’ Continues To Hold Obama Judges Hostage

Last June, ThinkProgress reported that Senate conservatives were using single-senator anonymous holds to deny dozens of Obama nominees the up-or-down vote Republicans used to think was so important.

Four months later, nothing has changed. Since taking office last January, only four of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed, despite the fact that President Bush’s judges received very different treatment:

Consider, for example, the judicial nominations process during President George W. Bush’s last two years in office, 2007 and 2008. Bush was deeply unpopular at the time, and he faced a Senate firmly under Democratic control. Still, a large number of Bush nominees sailed through. The Senate voted on more than one-third of Bush’s confirmed nominees (26 of 68) less than three months after the president nominated them. […]

The story was similar in the first two years of Bush’s presidency: A Democratic majority in Congress confirmed 100 of Bush’s nominees in 17 months, even after delays due to a change in party control of the Sen. after Senator James Jeffords left the Republican Party in May 2001.

Blocking nearly every single one of a President’s nominees is unprecedented, but conservatives have played Calvinball with the Senate’s confirmation rules for decades. During the Reagan and Bush I Administrations, then-Senate Judiciary Chair Joe Biden (D-DE) followed a longstanding rule allowing a nominee’s home state senators to block a judicial nominee, but only if both senators agreed to do so. After President Clinton took office and conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) became judiciary chair, however, the rules suddenly changed to allow a single-home state senator to veto a nominee — a power that segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) used to block every single one of Clinton’s nominees from North Carolina. Yet when Bush II took office, Hatch eliminated the home-state senator veto altogether.


This time, however, the right doesn’t even have enough votes to maintain a filibuster if the Majority Leader insists that President Obama’s nominees deserve the same favorable treatment he gave to President Bush’s; the only question is how long Reid will let the “Party of No” say no to Obama’s judges.