Ten Miles Square


June 19, 2013 9:40 AM Who’s Responsible for Judicial Vacancies?

By Jonathan Bernstein

Fascinating parenthetical in Emily Heil’s story about judicial vacancies:

Some vacancies have remained without nominees because home-state senators have yet to make recommendations to the White House to begin with — and in states with two GOP senators, that means they can delay the process there. (However, we hear that President Obama has sufficiently badgered at least Democratic senators to start providing names of judges, and observers are expecting a “raft” of new names from the White House soon.)

First, it’s good reporting to note the Senate’s role in the delays in judicial nominations at the very beginning of the process.

But what’s this about Democratic Senators? We know (or at least we think we know) that Republican Senators have been slow-walking nominations in their states, but the general sense I’ve had is that the delays in Democratic states have been the administration’s fault. Here, it’s posed as the fault of Democratic Senators — at least recently. Is that true?

One way to look at it is that it’s fair to blame Obama up to the point that he makes it clear that he’s doing whatever he can; that is, if he hasn’t been “sufficiently badgering” in public, we know he hasn’t done everything he can do. But overall, it’s hard to tell! So, good reporting here, but more, please.

Oh - and that “raft” of new names? Seems like we’ve been hearing that all year, which makes me more inclined to think that the whole paragraph is mainly WH spin. Of course, we eventually did get the three DC Circuit picks, so you never know.

[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.


  • rayspace on June 19, 2013 11:06 AM:

    I read the piece as well and am wondering why Obama doesn't name nominees in states where there are 2 Democratic Senators, in order to highlight the obstructionism of Republican Senators. According to AFJ, there are 14 vacancies with no nominees in states with 2 Democratic Senators, and if Obama put up nominees for all of them in one day (yes, it can be done), it would go a long way to pushing back against the Republican charge that they can't confirm nominees that don't exist.

    One thing that Heil didn't mention is that Republican obstructionism thwarts the efforts of same-state Democratic Senators. The key example is Florida. Obama named William Thomas in November, but he hasn't had a hearing yet because Rubio hasn't turned in his blue slip. Even worse, Rubio is holding up the nomination of Brian Davis, whose nomination he previously supported (even introduced him at his hearing) because Grassley is sad about some comments that Davis made back in the '90s about the realities of race in America. Hmm...Grassley represents Iowa, and where is the first 2016 caucus? Yes, exactly. Oh, and did I mention that most of the Florida vacancies end up being emergency vacancies, too?