Judicial confirmations inch forward in the Senate


(Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES)

The Senate late Wednesday approved its first Obama judge for 2013: William Kayatta of Maine for a seat on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. He’d been waiting about 10 months for that cliff-hanger, 88 to 12 vote. (Well, you don’t want to be too hasty on these matters, after all.)

And the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent to the full Senate the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, a former New York solicitor general who clerked on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court for a seat on that appeals court.

The committee, heading into a week-long recess, approved her nearly two years ago on a 10 to 8 straight party-line vote. This time the vote was 10-7, with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) this time taking a pass.

Another circuit court nominee, Patty Shwartz, was also voted out today on an 11 to 7 vote, with all Democrats and Graham voting in favor.

The committee, on voice votes, also sent nine district court and two court of international trade nominees to the floor, where their fates continue to be most uncertain.

Senate Republicans have done very well at slow-walking President Obama’s judicial nominees — far better than Democrats did during George W. Bush’s presidency.

The White House calculates that at this point in their presidencies, President Clinton’s district and appeals court nominees waited an average of 114 days from nomination to confirmation and Bush’s nominees waited nearly twice as long, 209 days.

But Obama’s have waited an average of 342 days. This “needless delay is unacceptable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

Well, it may seem an odd way to run a country, but it remains unclear whether there’s going to be much change absent some huge bipartisan agreement on these matters.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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