The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Those constant GOP filibusters

Since I hit President Obama last week for being slow to make appointments, it’s only fair to remind everyone what he’s up against, and yesterday’s confirmation, finally, of new appeals court Judge Robert Bacharach is a good opportunity.

That’s because Bacharach was finally confirmed unanimously, 93 to 0. Where was the obstruction, you may ask? A cloture vote failed in July (by a count of 56 to 34, with three Republicans voting “present” and seven not voting; on cloture votes, all that matters is the yes votes, so present and not voting are the same as voting no). In fact, of the Republicans currently in the Senate, only Susan Collins voted yes on cloture in July; everyone else was effectively against cloture then but voted for the nomination yesterday.

Indeed, by July Bacharach had already been held up for far too long. He was appointed back in January 2012 — and the seat he’s now filling has been open since June 2010.

None of this should happen, especially with a nominee who faced no actual opposition. I do think there’s a fair case for forcing a supermajority requirement on lifetime judicial appointments, especially at appellate-court levels, to which the minority objects strongly.

However, when the minority abuses the process by filibustering judges it doesn’t even oppose, they’re just asking for the eventual imposition of majority confirmation. As Steve Benen says, “It’s not just the Senate that failed miserably in this confirmation process; it’s the GOP minority that took the extraordinary step of filibustering a judge they wanted to confirm.”

Now, the good news here is that Bacharach is the second appeals-court nominee to be confirmed in the current Congress. The reforms the Senate enacted last month were intended to help especially with nominations that are not controversial; it may be not much of a goal, but the hope was that, at least in cases such as this one, where fewer than 41 senators oppose a nominee, the Senate can act quickly.

So we’ll see: Is the Bacharach confirmation part of a trend of the Senate — and Republicans, in particular — acting more responsibly? Or is further reform needed on judicial nominations?