Friday, February 17, 2012

More GOP Follies On Judicial Nominees

There are 84 vacancies on the federal courts -- almost double the rate of vacancies by this point in George W. Bush's first term.  To understand why we need look no further than the "long and obstruction filled road" of the newest judge, Adalberto Jose Jordán, who eventually was confirmed by a vote of 94-5 for a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jordán was hardly controversial.  He was rated unanimously well qualified by the American Bar Association and cleared the Judiciary Committee with unanimous support.  Nevertheless, his nomination was pending on the Senate floor since before the December recess, and the Senate opted not to schedule a vote on his nomination.  It was then that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion to force a vote on his nomination, and an overwhelming majority of senators voted in favor of the motion.

As Nicole Flatow at American Constitution Society explains, here's what happened next:
Sen. Rand Paul, seeking to gain leverage for an unrelated proposal to cut off aid to Egypt until detainees are released, exploited a procedural rule and refused to consent to a vote before the permitted 30 hours for “debate” had lapsed.

While the Senate waited for the 30 hours to elapse, several other pieces of legislation were held up.

“Paul wants to send a message to his colleagues about Egypt and American foreign policy -- and he's doing it by adding one wrong on top of another,” wrote Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank said of the hold-up:

Congressional staffers I checked with couldn’t recall a similar instance of blocking a confirmation even after a filibuster had failed. This would seem to be a unique humiliation for a man hailed by the Hispanic National Bar Association because of “the positive message this nomination sends to the Latino community.

Two days later, the Senate confirmed Jordán just as overwhelmingly as they had voted to end the filibuster of his nomination, by a vote of 94-5.
Gail Collins provides a more facetious summary:
This week, the Senate confirmed Judge Adalberto Jose Jordan to a seat on the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. A visitor from another country might not have appreciated the proportions of this achievement, given the fact that Jordan, who was born in Cuba and who once clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor, had no discernible opposition.

But Americans ought to have a better grasp of how the Senate works. The nomination’s progress had long been thwarted by Mike Lee, a freshman Republican from Utah, who has decided to hold up every single White House appointment to anything out of pique over ... well, it doesn’t really matter. When you’re a senator, you get to do that kind of thing.

This forced the majority leader, Harry Reid, to get 60 votes to move Judge Jordan forward, which is never all that easy. Then there was further delay thanks to Rand Paul, a freshman from Kentucky, who stopped action for as long as possible because he was disturbed about foreign aid to Egypt.

All that is forgotten now. The nomination was approved, 94 to 5, only 125 days after it was unanimously O.K.’d by the Judiciary Committee. Whiners in the White House pointed out that when George W. Bush was president, circuit court nominations got to a floor vote in an average of 28 days.

No matter. Good work, Senate! Only 17 more long-pending judicial nominations to go!
This was the eighth time Reid was forced to take the extreme measure of filing a motion for cloture to force a vote on one of President Obama's judicial nominees.  He has just done it again, to force a vote on federal prosecutor Jesse Furman, another consensus nominee who was approved by the Judiciary Committee for a seat on the Southern District of New York without opposition.

Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman issued the following statement:
Like the needless delay in Judge Jordan’s confirmation, the Republican filibuster of Jesse Furman, who by any traditional measure is a consensus nominee, is another example of the tactics that have all but paralyzed the Senate confirmation process and are damaging our Federal courts.  It should not take five months and require a cloture motion for the Senate to proceed to vote on this nomination.  At a time when nearly one out of every 10 judgeships is vacant and we have over 20 judicial nominations reported favorably by the Committee, 16 of which have been stalled on the Senate calendar since last year, nearly all of them superbly-qualified consensus nominees, our Federal courts and the American people cannot afford more of these partisan tactics.
 As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, "and so it goes."

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