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Gridlock, confirmed. Judges, no.

Columnist

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort by Democrats to confirm 17 long-pending nominees for federal district court seats, probably ensuring that no more of President Obama’s judicial picks will be confirmed at least until after the November election.

The failed effort — though 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.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

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 George W. Bush administration and that the Senate’s confirmation rate for Obama’s nominees is slightly higher than for 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 to happen before the Senate finally adjourns.

Thursday’s action may leave 78 of the nation’s 865 judgeships vacant, probably for a good while longer.

¿Cómo se dice ‘lobbyist’?

The Obama administration famously banned lobbyists from working in the administration — though there were exceptions for some, and others were admitted after a “cleansing period” of a couple years of not lobbying.

And many Americans believe the Gucci Gulch crowd and all those political contributions are what makes all those special interest groups so successful and, well, special.

Now it appears lobbyist-bashing is not just an American pastime but a worldwide hobby.

Take, for example, a recent article in the Buenos Aires Herald in which Argentina’s ambassador in Washington said lobbyists were promoting a global trade war.

The comments apparently were triggered by recent tension between Argentina and the United States and European governments over barriers to Argentine fruit, beef and biodiesel fuel.

Ambassador Jorge Arguello told reporters that global trade disputes “are agitated in an . . . irresponsible way by some lobby sectors, especially from developed countries,” the Herald reported.

Surely no one from Washington?

Probably not 47.0%

Okay, so the Romney campaign has hit a bit of a rough patch. Still, there are three huge televised debates on tap, economic numbers to be crunched and, well, anything can happen. Obviously, time is getting short for Romney to turn this around.

But time is getting even shorter to enter the Loop’s quadrennial Pick the President Contest. The deadline for entries is midnight Friday.

Simply predict:

●The winning candidate.

●The number of electoral votes he’ll receive.

●His percentage of the popular vote.

Up to 20 entries choosing the correct candidate will win — the 10 closest to the electoral-vote total and the 10 closest to the popular-vote percentage (specify to the tenth of a point). Ties go to entries first received.

Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts.

Send entries — only one set of predictions per person — to intheloop@washpost.com. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.

(Congressional and Obama administration aides may enter “on background.”)

You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible.

Strike that gaffe

Sometimes it’s hard to hear certain things.

For example, at Thursday’s State Department briefing, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was peppered with questions about embassy closings as a result of recent demonstrations in Muslim countries protesting that YouTube video mocking the prophet Muhammad.

“We’re making decisions on mission posture on a daily basis,” Nuland said.

“Embassy Tunis, Tripoli, Sanaa were again closed today,” she said. “Cairo was open. Consulate General Alexandria closed, Beirut open, Casablanca also open, Khartoum closed.”

She added, somewhat casually: “I feel like I’m doing the schools.”

After a few other questions about closings, a reporter asked, “I’m sorry, did you say you felt like you were doing the schools?”

“No, no, no, no, no. I — please,” she responded.

Curiously, when we got the official transcript a short time later, her “schools” observation was gone — “(inaudible),” the transcript says.

And then, even more oddly, the reporter’s later question reads: “I’m sorry. (inaudible)”

They must have been having audio difficulties. Clear as a bell on our recording.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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