Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, has criticized GOP senators for obstructing judicial nominees. Leahy pointed to the “longest sustained period of historically high vacancy rates on the federal judiciary in the last 35 years.”
The Democratic senator made his remarks after the Senate voted Tuesday to confirm only four of 24 pending judicial nominees, before heading out of town for an August recess, according to the Main Justice blog.
“This is not how the Senate has acted in years past with other Presidents’ judicial nominees,” Leahy contended. “Vacancies are being kept high, consensus nominees are being delayed and it is the American people and the federal courts that are being made to suffer.”
Leahy thanked the Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, for cooperation and said the blockage has occurred on the Senat floor. “Senate Republicans have departed from the SEnate’s traditional practice by refusing to confirm even unanimous, consensus, nominees,” he said.
Grassley disagreed with Leahy’s attributing confirmation delays to partisan politics.
“It’s disingenuous to say that Republicans are holding up the judicial confirmation process,” he said. “Of the 20 nominees remaining on the Senate calendar, five of those were just recently reported out of committee, and the first vote the Senate has scheduled upon returning in September is on a circuit court nominee.”
Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron voiced disappointment in a statement over the pace of confirmations. “Addressing the federal budget deficit is hard, but fixing the federal judge deficit is not. The crisis can be ameliorated by simply giving every nominee sent to the floor a timely vote,” she said. “The ongoing failure to do so is threatening to send justice itself into default.”
Also critical was Glenn Sugameli of Judging the Environment. “The American Bar Association President’s July 28, 2011 letter to Senate Leaders urged up-or-down votes on all unopposed nominees before the Senate left town until after Labor Day,” Sugameli said in a statement. “Instead, Senate Republican obstruction perpetuates the judicial vacancy crisis by preventing votes on many nominees to the federal bench, regardless of need, bi-partisan support, and qualifications.”