We heard that Harry Reid would make a last stand to deal with the crisis in the federal judiciary, and now we’re getting it. Today, Reid announced he would spend the next two weeks seeking to confirm 17 federal judges who received unanimous or near-unanimous votes out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reid will file cloture on all 17 of these judicial nominees, and seek to confirm them out of the Senate one by one.
“People have a right under our rules to hold up the next judge in line for 30 hours … that will show what this is all about … that will show it’s an effort to embarrass the president and not take into consideration 160 million people who don’t have an ability to have their cases tried in an orderly manner,” said Reid [...]
“For tens of millions of Americans the right to equal justice under the law is at risk,” said Reid. “I am sorry to say it’s because of Republican ideology.”
There truly is a crisis in the federal judiciary. The average nominee under Obama for circuit courts of appeals has waited 136 days for confirmation, and the average district court nominee has waited 93 days. This has created a logjam in the federal courts, where 16% of all civil cases in 2010 had to wait three years or more for a resolution. And the vacancy rates on the federal bench are actually going up.
This judicial nomination fight will intersect with the President’s controversial recess appointments of the CFPB’s Richard Cordray and several members of the National Labor Relations Board. A few Senate conservatives, like Mike Lee and Jim DeMint, have vowed to obstruct all Presidential nominees until those recess appointments get rolled back. So far, the rest of the caucus hasn’t joined them. But this escalates that fight significantly.
I said at the beginning of 2011 that the Senate might as well devote themselves to confirming judges. It’s not like they have much else to do. Reid is taking that advice now, planning to make a spectacle out of Republican obstructionism.