The Washington Post

Obama’s record on appointing judges comes into focus

The Senate Judiciary Committee gavel --is it ready for a workout? (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

With Senate leaders’ agreement this week to move on 14 judicial nominations, it’s theoretically possible that the Obama administration, which is far behind the past two administrations in the number of judges confirmed, could catch up to its predecessors.

But, as with so many weather forecasts, there’s a chance of showers.

Here’s the math: After the Senate acts on the 14 agreed-upon judges, there are eight more teed up for a full Senate vote. An additional eight nominees are in the Senate Judiciary committee pipeline. And that panel’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy(D-Vt.), says he’ll begin work on 11 more judicial nominations in the next few weeks.

That’s a total of 41 potentially approved judges.

If the Senate approves them all, it would push Obama’s number of confirmed judges to 172.

To put that in perspective, by the end of May in their first presidential terms, George W. Bush had 175 judges approved, and Bill Clinton had 183. So, the Obama administration would still lag his predecessors at this point, but not by much.

Will he hit the target? Well, we should note that Obama’s number could go higher, if the White House sends more nominees to the Senate — and if the chamber acts quickly (straight faces, please). But more likely, the president’s score will be lower, maybe much lower, given the highly contentious air circulating around Washington these days. The chances that Obama will catch up to his predecessors’ total first-term confirmations (203 for Clinton and 204 for Bush)? Slim.

Especially since the skies tend to darken considerably the closer we get to Election Day.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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