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November 22, 2013

“…and the politicians are so feeble-minded and gutless that you can’t even hate them anymore.”
– from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Grey and Hopeless

Two men are sitting on a park bench.thQG00387N

First man: “Oy”
Second man: “Oy”
First man: “Oy”
Second man: “Oy”
First man: “I thought we weren’t going to talk about politics.”

With the current state of things in Washington, it’s hard to avoid a word or two.  As we all now know, the Senate has changed its rules to disallow filibusters on judicial nominations.  This rule change was first talked about in 2003, when Senator Trent Lott pegged it the “nuclear option.”  Lott now says that the notion is flawed and that he quickly regretted his role in the matter.  In 2010, Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall started pushing for rule changes to speed up the nomination approval process.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed with the Majority Leader, Harry Reid, that too many vacancies are taking too long to fill.  In fact, he’s been clear that a filibuster used to prevent a president’s judicial nomination is unconstitutional.

“The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2  clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates  judges.  The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent.  But my  Democratic colleagues want to change the rules.  They want to  reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for  confirmation.”

But that was then, when the nominations were made by President Bush, not President Obama.

Judicial nominations are simply not approved by the Senate as they once were.  According to the Congressional Research Service (a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress which works exclusively for the U.S. Congress), nominees wait much longer to take their positions on the bench.  Eighty percent of Ronald Reagan’s nominations were confirmed in less than one hundred days.  None of Obama’s circuit court nominees and two percent of his district court nominees have been confirmed that quickly.  Sixty-four percent of his circuit court nominees and fifty-five percent of his district court nominees have waited more than two hundred days.  Roughly six percent of Reagan’s nominees were deferred that long.  And the real insult?  These are the uncontroversial nominees.  Examples of Obama’s uncontroversial nominees who have had to wait for an up or down vote on the Senate floor include:

  • Richard Taranto was confirmed for the Federal Circuit Court with a 91-0 vote, 484 days after he was nominated;
  • Robert Bacharach was confirmed for the Tenth Circuit Court in Oklahoma with a 93-0 vote, 263 days after he was nominated;
  • William Kayatta was confirmed for the First Circuit Court in Maine with an 88-12 vote after 300 days.

A professor at the University of Massachusetts has created a measure that he calls the “Index of Obstruction and Delay,” which as it indicates, puts the Senate’s practice on a scale.  Obama’s and G. W. Bush’s circuit court nominees were at .952 and .618, respectively.

graph-fillibusdters-judicial-nominees-all-pres-vs-obamaThere are no two ways about it. Without regard to the nominees’ credentials or merit to a functioning court system, the Senate has been irresponsible with their confirmation process and reckless with their duties to the country.

And now people responsible for the delays are losing their minds, fearing the demise of our nation because things may actually get done in the legislature and the judiciary.  They are warning that they will be defenseless against nefarious political agendas.  They are calling the change a power grab and an end to democracy.  One of the cheerleaders over at Fox News even suggested that the administration was considering a military coup.  And poor McConnell, he just can’t win.  Some are blaming him for the rule change with the claim that he is simply too weak and that Reid knew that McConnell would let him get away with it.

These people who resorted to obstruction had to know that sooner or later, the game would be up.  Play outside the norms (and the rules themselves) and the rules will sooner or later be changed.  They are claiming that the rule change is wrong because it dismisses minority rights.  In the next breath, they are promising revenge when they become the majority again.  The place is a striking mess.

  1. I cannot like this post enough. Seriously, I should log in on another ISP and like it again.


    • Thank you Jerol. That’s very kind of you.

      Sometimes, with this world around us, these things almost write themselves.


  2. Grant Bevill permalink

    This reminds me of Mayor Washington vs the evil Eddie Vrdolyak. Shameful.


  3. I am Sam, Sam I am, That Sam I am, That Sam I am, Do you Like Green Eggs and Ham? … Would you like them in House? Would you like them with a Mouse … xo LMA

    p.s. not in a box, not with a fox, I would not eat green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I Am.


  4. LMA – Ha! Exactly. Ultimately, many of these people have no substantive objection and instead act out of misplaced loyalty.


  5. Another sad page in American history Bruce. I am reminded of the Dixiecrats in the era of Civil Rights. I am also reminded that California finally has a semi-functional government because of the strong majority of Democrats. –Curt


  6. Oy! is right!
    This obstructionist behavior is helping no one and hurting everyone!


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