More than 400 days ago, President Obama nominated Nashville Attorney Jane Stranch to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. No senator articulated a plausible reason to oppose Stranch’s nomination, although Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) did take to the Senate floor yesterday to make the absurd claim that he must oppose Stranch because she says that she will emulate the Supreme Court’s precedents concerning foreign law. Stranch is not a particularly contentious nominee — indeed, both of her state’s Republican senators endorsed her nomination, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) even unsuccessfully pushed to have her confirmed nearly two months ago. Nevertheless, Stranch has waited more than a year for the Senate to simply vote on her nomination.
Last night, the Senate finally ended the pointless obstruction of Stranch’s nomination:
It seems odd that a nominee who received such a lopsided 71–21 vote would be the victim of obstructionism, but these kinds of mindless objections to Obama’s nominees have become commonplace. Conservatives filibustered Judge Barbara Milano Keenan’s nomination to the Fourth Circuit for months. She was then confirmed 99–0. Judge Denny Chin was filibustered for months, only to be confirmed 98–0. And dozens of nominations continue to languish, despite no serious opposition.
The right’s weapon against judicial confirmations is a Senate rule which allows them to force up to 30 hours of floor debate on each nominee even after a filibuster is broken. Although 30 hours may not seem like a lot, when you multiply it across the hundreds of judges, ambassadors and other officials that require Senate confirmation, there is literally not enough time to confirm more than a fraction of these nominees. Moreover, while allowing the minority to delay a vote even after a filibuster has been broken can be waived, doing so requires unanimous consent of all 100 senators.
There’s only one possible explanation for this kind of rampant obstructionism. Someday, a conservative will occupy the White House again, and every seat that the right allows President Obama to fill is a seat that they cannot fill with a right-wing ideologue. Sadly, their delay and obstruct strategy is working, as Obama’s judges have been confirmed at only slightly more than half the rate of President George W. Bush’s. Indeed, Obama has the lowest judicial confirmation rate of any recent president.