Senate Republicans blocked an effort Thursday by Democrats to confirm 17 long-pending nominees for federal district court seats, likely ensuring no more Obama judicial picks will be confirmed at least until after the November election.
The failed effort — although predictable, given the hyperpartisan Senate gridlock before the election — was nonetheless notable because several of the long-delayed nominees enjoyed strong support from their Republican home-state senators.
And all but three of the 17 nominees had been approved nearly unanimously in committee.
There were also four appeals court nominees on the Senate floor awaiting confirmation, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t bother to try to get the lawmakers to confirm the appellate nominees before adjournment, since those judgeships are considered more important.
In not approving the trial court judges, Republicans would be “setting new standards for obstruction,” Reid said on the floor, “not only in all legislation but in judges.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), rejected the request to vote on the judges. Reid’s complaints were “quite curious,” McConnell fired back, saying that Democrats had done much the same thing during the Bush administration and that the Senate’s confirmation rate for Obama’s nominees is slightly higher than Bush’s in his first term.
In a statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) appealed to GOP senators who had nominees pending a vote “to reason with their leadership about this obstruction.” That seemed unlikely before the Senate adjourns.
The action leaves 78 of the nation’s 865 judgeships vacant, likely for a good while longer.