The Senate quietly did something noteworthy yesterday: it confirmed one of President Obama’s judicial nominees to an appellate court. Sure, Senate Republicans opposed the nominee by a roughly 3-to-1 margin for no apparent reason, but Judge Patty Shwartz was nevertheless confirmed with 64 votes.
It led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to wonder aloud what Democrats keep complaining about.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vigorously defended his party’s conduct regarding President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees on Tuesday, as the administration and its allies step up criticisms that the GOP obstructs confirmations.
“We just today confirmed the 10th judicial nomination of President Obama’s second term. Today. The 10th judicial nomination of President Obama’s second term,” said McConnell in a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday afternoon…. “So we have treated the president’s judicial nominees very, very fairly by any objective standard,” he added.
Hmm. McConnell wants to talk about objective standards and Obama’s judicial nominees? Well, fine, let’s do that.
By objective standards, Obama’s district court nominees have to wait three times as long as Bush/Cheney nominees before receiving a confirmation vote, and Obama’s circuit court nominees have to wait four times as long as Bush/Cheney nominees.
By objective standards, one of Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees was rejected by a filibuster without cause, another D.C. Circuit nominee may soon face the same fate, and Senate Republicans have said they hope to prevent any Obama nominee from reaching this federal bench – at least until there’s a new president in 2017.
McConnell and his caucus blocked one Obama judicial nominee for 263 days, and then blocked another for 484 days, despite the fact that both enjoyed unanimous support in the Senate, which by “any objective standard” in insane.
Is it really that surprising to McConnell that his abuses have led Senate Democrats to consider drastic measures? Or more to the point, how does McConnell define “very fair”?
The larger fight appears to be coming to a head over Sri Srinivasan.
With a coordination and an energy that echo a Supreme Court nomination fight, the Obama administration is pushing for the confirmation of a senior Justice Department lawyer to the country’s most prestigious appellate court. If the effort fails, it could lead to a confrontation with the Senate over the long-simmering issue of judicial nominees.
The White House is lobbying some of the president’s most vocal foes, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Administration officials are trumpeting the endorsement of top Republican lawyers like Kenneth W. Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated the Clintons. And former clerks for Supreme Court justices, liberal and conservative, are writing letters of support for the nominee, Sri Srinivasan.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on his nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination will test an aggressive new strategy that the White House and Democrats are hoping will put Republicans in a bind: approve the highly regarded Mr. Srinivasan or risk forcing a change to Senate rules that could prevent Republicans from filibustering nominees.
Note, while Obama has successfully named zero judges to the D.C. Circuit bench, arguably the nation’s second most import federal court, he’s been slow to send nominations for this bench to the Senate for consideration. The delays are understandable – if Senate Republicans are blocking everyone, the president doesn’t exactly have a strong incentive to nominate jurists whose professional lives will be on hold indefinitely – but the lack of nominations has nevertheless been an ongoing point of concern on the left.
The White House is taking this seriously. Four of the 11 seats on the D.C. Circuit are vacant, but one nomination is pending, and as of yesterday, three more nominations are reportedly on the way.