Republican Senate Stalls Confirmation of Judges…Slowest Rate in 62 Years

Monday, September 21, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Once again, Republican legislators are putting partisan politics ahead of the needs of the American people—this time with the confirmation of federal judges.


A report (pdf) from the Alliance for Justice points out that the U.S. Senate has confirmed only six judges so far in 2015, putting it on pace to match or do even worse than the 1953 Senate, also controlled by the GOP, which confirmed only nine judges.


The delays in confirmation mean that many courts are woefully understaffed. Some of the seats have been open for more than a year and a few for as many as three years.


“Over the years I’ve received several letters from people indicating, ‘Even if I win this case now, my business has failed because of the delay. How is this justice?’ And the simple answer, which I cannot give them, is this: It is not justice. We know it,” Eastern District of California Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said, according to the report.


Republicans claim they are only doing with President Barack Obama’s nominees what the Democrats did to George W. Bush’s, but the numbers show that’s just not true. In the last two years of the Bush administration, with a Senate controlled by Democrats, 68 judges were confirmed.


Much of the obstruction is happening in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa delays confirmation hearings for every nominee, according to the report. Once candidates get through the committee, their nominations land on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who either delays or refuses to schedule voting. Even nominees with bipartisan support find their confirmation votes held up.


But most of the vacancies are in states with at least one Republican senator. Senators are supposed to provide suggested nominees for open judgeships within their states, but many Republicans have been slow to make their suggestions, and even when they do, they place holds on their chosen nominees.


Of course, it’s not merely out of spite that Republicans are holding up nominations, although many of them still haven’t gotten over their tantrums that began when Harry Reid of Nevada ended the filibustering of judicial nominees when Democrats controlled the Senate. They’re also hoping that there’s a Republican in the White House beginning in 2017 who will make nominations more to their liking. By then, of course, some of the vacancies could be a half-decade old and more.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Politics over Justice: Judicial Selection in the 114th Congress (Alliance for Justice) (pdf)

Senate Republicans On Track to Confirm Fewest Judges in 46 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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