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May 13, 2013 10:18 AM Judicial Appointments: It’s About Nominations, Not Confirmations

By Jonathan Bernstein

We still aren’t getting new judicial nominees.

It’s now been about nine weeks since the White House convinced some gullible reporters that a flood of judges was coming. Since then, there’s been barely a trickle. In particular, we’re still waiting for the three nominees for the DC Circuit Court.

Now, not all of this is Barack Obama’s fault. I missed this last week, but Jennifer Bendery has a terrific item about a confrontation over judges between John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Pat Leahy. Republicans are in fact, in many states, obstructing the normal process of selecting nominees in the first place (and Pat Leahy and the Judiciary Committee Democrats are basically allowing it to happen). 

However. Not all of the delays are happening in states with Republican Senators. Nor has the president done any pushback at all, at least not publicly, over GOP-led obstruction when it happens. And, really…well, I can’t say I don’t blame them, because I do, but I still strongly suspect that a large percentage of the low-level obstruction would disappear if Obama seemed to care about it at all. I expect Republicans to place a high priority on stopping strongly ideological DC Circuit nominations. But district court picks? I doubt they really care much, but since there’s no particular reason not to slow everything down, they might as well. And don’t forget — the president can have some leverage here, because local lawyers really don’t like court delays.

At any rate: we’re still right around 60 seats with no nominee, but fewer than 25 nominees waiting for Senate action, with fewer than 10 having been reporting out of committee and waiting floor action. Whoever is at fault, it’s pretty clear that the biggest bottleneck now is at the nomination stage, not confirmation.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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