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When the judicial confirmation process gets 'stupid'

As Senate Republicans take obstructionist tactics to levels unseen in American history, the effects are seen throughout government, most notably on the federal
Robert Bacharach
Robert Bacharach

As Senate Republicans take obstructionist tactics to levels unseen in American history, the effects are seen throughout government, most notably on the federal courts. Because the GOP minority cares more about blocking President Obama's judicial nominees than the courts' ability to function, there are an extraordinary number of judicial vacancies, with more on the way.

The only way to resolve the problem is for Senate Republicans to become more responsible. Robert Bacharach offers a perfect example of how the GOP is actually getting worse, not better.

The White House's Jennifer Palmieri summarized the story nicely last night.

This evening the Senate confirmed Robert Bacharach to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Oklahoma. Judge Bacharach waited 263 days for a Senate floor vote, only to be approved overwhelmingly, by a vote of 93-0. Not only was Judge Bacharach supported by the two Republican Senators from Oklahoma, he was recommended to the White House for this judgeship by Senator Coburn in October 2011.Yet, early last summer, Senate Republicans blocked Judge Bacharach from even getting an up or down vote – the first successful filibuster of a judicial nominee who had bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Look, I understand that Senate Republicans are not going to like some of the White House's more progressive judicial nominees. But in this case, Republicans filibustered a judge they like. The Senate GOP asked Obama to nominate Bacharach; the president agreed; and Republicans blocked their own choice for 263 days anyway.

Why? Because Republicans chose to obstruct for the sake of obstructionism. Even Tom Coburn, whom no one would fairly characterize as a moderate, called this "stupid."

And the closer one looks, the dumber it appears.

This is, for example, the longest delay ever seen for a judicial nominee who had literally no opposition.

I'll gladly concede that when it comes to judicial nominees, there are no angels among the various partisan players. Senate Republicans rewrote the rules under Bill Clinton and Senate Democrats blocked votes on some right-wing nominees under George W. Bush. But no one has ever seen tactics like those we're witnessing now.

Palmieri added, "To put this obstruction in some perspective, the average wait time for President George W. Bush's federal appellate judicial nominees, from Committee vote to confirmation, at this point in his presidency was 35 days. By contrast, the average wait time for President Obama's federal appellate judicial nominees has been 147 days."

It's not uncommon for some on the left to complain that the White House has often been slow to nominate jurists to fill many of these vacancies, and the criticisms are not without merit. But try to consider this from the president's perspective: why rush to send judicial nominees to the Senate when the broken and dysfunctional chamber needs 263 days to confirm a judge who has no opponents?

Coburn added last night, "I think the Senate owes Judge Bacharach an apology." I think that's a fair assessment, though the sentence seems to be missing the word "Republican" -- it's not just the Senate that failed miserably in this confirmation process; it's the GOP minority that took the extraordinary step of filibustering a judge they wanted to confirm.