Day 5: Senate Minority Uses Filibuster to Hold Hostage Judicial Nominees

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  • Dale Eisman

If you seek justice, don’t go looking for it in the U.S. Senate.

Today’s filibuster-happy Senate minority is threatening to cripple our federal judiciary, abusing the Senate’s own rules to delay or block the confirmations of dozens of highly-qualified lawyers and state court judges nominated by President Obama to the federal bench.

“Because of the filibuster and other delaying tactics, fewer than half of the President’s nominees to date have been confirmed,” said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president. “At this point in his first term, President George W. Bush had seen more than 60 percent of his nominees clear the Senate and take their places on the bench.

“Many of the obstructed nominees have won public pledges of support from both of their home-state senators. Most of those that finally manage to get a vote are confirmed overwhelmingly, often unanimously,” Edgar added.

Edgar noted that 34 nominations currently are on the Senate calendar, cleared by bi-partisan votes in committee and ready for floor action. All those nominations have been pending for more than six months; four have been languishing for more than a year. Fifteen of the nominations are for courts where the dockets are so crowded and the need for additional judges so great that court administrators have declared a judicial emergency.

“Every high school civics student learns that justice delayed is justice denied,” Edgar said. “These vacancies deny justice to crime victims by forcing trials to be postponed; they deny justice to individuals and businesses that see their finances wrecked while they wait for a judge to hear their civil lawsuits.

“This is the kind of obstructionism that Republicans rightfully complained about when Democrats practiced it against some of President Bush’s nominees. But rather than end it, the current Republican minority has doubled-down, obstructing more judges and for a longer time.”

This month, Common Cause is spotlighting how filibuster abuse is hijacking the Congress and blocking action on vital national problems. Common Cause is hosting a forum on filibuster reform on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at the National Press Club.