Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vacant and Lame

Republican Presidents since Reagan have understood the importance of the judicial nomination process in transforming the federal judiciary to their political purposes.  By successfully pushing young, extremely conservative nominees, Reagan and the two Presidents Bush have been able to completely reshape not just the Supreme Court, but the lower federal courts throughout the country.  When Clinton was president, the courts were simply not a priority.  Rather than extend his precious, if mythical, political capital, he sought to avoid bruising confirmation battles by appointing mostly moderates and not putting up a fight when Republicans challenged more liberal nominees.  Obama, like Clinton, has been far less aggressive than his Republican predecessors in pushing for judicial appointments.  He acted very slowly in making nominations in the first place and the Republicans fought every one of those he did put forward.  In addition, neither he nor his Democratic allies in Congress have made an issue out of Republican stalling maneuvers.  As one article notes, "Obama has voiced only tepid public objection as more and more of his judicial nominees become stranded in Senate limbo, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been unwilling to set aside the considerable time needed to force votes under complex Senate rules."  Progressives have complained that "Senate Democrats haven't sufficiently prioritized the nominations process, and they haven't exploited their unusually large majority" they had in Obama's first term "to challenge Republican obstructionism as aggressively as the situation demands."  According to the Alliance for Justice, "unprecedented Republican tactics of procedural obstruction have left 23 Obama nominees languishing on the Senate floor, 17 of whom were reported out of the Judiciary Committee without Republican opposition."  As a recent AP report documented, "GOP obstruction has slowed confirmations to such an extent that, when you factor in retirements, federal district courts have actually moved to the right under Obama."  AFJ President Nan Aron states that “these historic levels of obstruction have serious consequences for American courts. The Senate needs to put aside partisan rancor, perform the task the Constitution has assigned to it, and confirm these qualified, diverse judges to the federal bench. It would be an unforgiveable tragedy if obstructionism during the lame-duck Congress helped create a lame-duck judiciary.”


Post a Comment