Obama’s current nominee scorecard: 1 down, 14 (or so) to go

In a sign that President Obama's judicial nominees may be gaining momentum, the Senate voted 64 to 34 to seat Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz on the 3rd Circuit on Tuesday.

The vote — which came 397 days after the Senate Judiciary Committee initially approved Shwartz's nomination — came as the White House has stepped up efforts to install several of its nominees on the federal bench. On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on principal deputy solicitor general Sri Srinivasan, whom Obama has nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Shwartz's confirmation was far from a cakewalk. Shwartz's nomination languished for so long Obama had to renominate her, so the panel approved her again on Feb. 14.

Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, questioned why Shwartz was not more forthcoming about her views on specific cases during her hearing.

On the floor Tuesday, Grassley said: "Because of her lack of candor at her hearing, I was unable to come to a determination that she is prepared to be a circuit judge. I share the doubts raised regarding her limited knowledge of constitutional law; misapplication of standards of review; and inadequate understanding of substantive areas of laws.  Accordingly, I cannot support this nomination."

Unsurprisingly, progressives viewed her somewhat differently.

"Judge Shwartz is indisputably qualified and supported by New Jersey’s legal leaders and elected officials from both parties, including Governor Christie and both of the state’s U.S. senators," said Marge Baker, executive director of People for the American Way, in a statement. "The only thing stopping the Senate from voting on her nomination was a 13-month Republican silent filibuster supported by flimsy excuses."

Both Grassley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, noted the vote meant the Senate had approved the tenth judicial nomination in Obama's second term.

"At this point in President Bush's second term, he got zero judges. None," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "With regard to vacancies, about 75 percent of the vacancies that we have in the judiciary don't even have nominees. So we have treated the president's judicial nominations very, very fairly by any objective standard."

White House spokesman Jay Carney, by contrast, took the opportunity during Tuesday's briefing, just before Shwartz was confirmed, to note that even after "her expected confirmation, there will still be 14 other judicial nominees awaiting floor votes. Of these 14, 13 were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously, and five nominees would fill judicial emergencies. ... We urge the Senate to move on these nominees without further delay.

Srinivasan, however, remains the most significant nominee waiting in the wings at the moment. As the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin wrote Wednesday, "The stakes in this nomination are clear: if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends."

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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