Confirmation of Gay Judge Belies Obama's Lack of Nominating Success

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
J. Paul Oetken
After two and a half years of nominating struggles and partisan roadblocks, President Barack Obama was able to celebrate an important judicial landmark this week: The confirmation of the first-ever openly gay man to the federal bench.
 
Equally remarkable was the fact Republicans not only did not block the confirmation of Paul Oetken, but they actually voted for him. GOP supporters included some of the Senate’s staunchest social conservatives: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Jon Kyl of Arizona.
 
The final vote for Oetken was 80-13.
 
“The nominee’s sexual orientation was deemed unimportant—or at least less important than his moderate politics and his pro-business record (he’s a corporate lawyer, with Cablevision),” wrote Dana Milbank for the Washington Post.
 
The successful confirmation of Oetken comes after the Obama White House enduring considerable criticism for its handling of judicial appointments. There are currently 90 vacancies in the federal courts, and while many of the slots have remained empty because the GOP has refused to confirm certain Obama’s selections, the president too has been blamed for the situation.
 
Legal experts attribute some of the problem to Obama’s slow pace in making judicial appointments. His operation for choosing judges has been described as disorganized and insular. Consequently, he lags behind his predecessors in making judicial nominations.
 
By the end of Bill Clinton’s first two years in office, he had selected 142 judges. For George W. Bush, the total was 131.
 
Obama? 103.
 
But of the judges Obama has nominated, only 39.8% have been confirmed. By this time in his first administration, 76% of Bush’s nominees had been approved. Clinton fared even better at 89%.   
 
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
In a ‘Quiet Moment,’ Gay Judge Makes History (by Dana Milbank, Washington Post)
Why Obama Has No Judges (by Jonathan Chait, The New Republic)

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