The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has released an important new report that details Barack Obama’s record on nominating judges during his first term. It’s no surprise: Republican obstruction against his selections was unprecedented. For example:
President Obama is the only one of the five most recent Presidents for whom, during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a calendar year (i.e., more than 182 days).
A quick look at the report’s summary confirms that Obama’s nominees have been treated more roughly than those of Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and the other Bush.
That’s only half the story. George H.W. Bush had to deal with an opposition party Senate for his entire first term, and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had that during about half of their first terms. It’s at least plausibly legitimate for opposite party Senators, when they have the majority, to argue that they should have a larger role in filling judicial vacancies, and to act accordingly. At the very least, if they simply oppose some of those nominees, they will defeat them in “up or down” votes.
But Obama, like Ronald Reagan, had a same-party Senate majority during his first term. He should have had among the best results over any recent president, all things being equal.
What changed when Obama took office, however, was the extension of the filibuster to cover every single nominee. Republicans didn’t always vote against cloture (or even demand cloture votes), but they did demand 60 votes for every nominee. That’s brand new. It’s true that Democrats filibustered selected judicial nominations during the George W. Bush presidency, but only at the circuit court level, and not every single one.
That meant that despite solid Democratic majorities and solid support from those Democrats, Obama’s judicial approval statistics are basically the worse of any of the recent presidents. He doesn’t show up last on every measure — for example, George H.W. Bush had a lower percentage of district court nominees confirmed — but he’s fourth or fifth out of five of these presidents on almost every way that CRS slices the numbers, and it adds up to by far the most obstruction faced by any recent president.
And remember: the losers here aren’t just the president and liberals who want to see his judges on the bench. Ordinary people who just want to get their legal matters taken care of promptly have suffered because of all the vacancies on federal courts.
It’s really a disgrace. Especially those picks that were delayed for months, only to wind up getting confirmed by unanimous votes. Especially the foot-dragging on district court nominees. Just a disgrace.
And with that, it’s Happy Hour. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.
1. Lots of very good reading on presidential power, “permission structure,” and Barack Obama. The presidency is the single most influential office in the political system…but that’s not all that influential. Joel Achenbach discusses.
2. And everything about the presidency has to be set in the context of today’s polarized parties, Ezra Klein reminds us.
4. John Sides says that whatever the press is saying, Barack Obama seems to get it.
5. Meanwhile, Benen catches another case of Paul Ryan amnesia.
6. Important post from Ed Kilgore: “[P]lease join me in calling on conservatives to cut this crap out and separate themselves from those who believe in vindicating the “original constitution” or defending their property rights or exalting their God or protecting the unborn via armed revolution.”
7. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, intended to cut Medicare costs? Not necessary, yet. Sarah Kliff reports.
8. Jonathan Chait on the Oregon study and why “The case for Medicaid expansion is overwhelmingly strong.”
9. But if you’re still confused on what that Oregon study showed, Kevin Drum has a very good summary.
10. Philip Klein challenges Greg’s account of what Marco Rubio is up to, and has some sensible advice for Republican politicians on immigration.
11. Florida’s presidential primary in 2016 will comply with party rules — after Marco Rubio persuaded the legislature there to avoiding risking any of his potential delegates.
12. And Harry Enten on the polls after Boston: no interest in a new Patriot Act.