The Washington Post

Obama’s judicial logjam


The Senate’s rejection Monday of Oklahoma Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach for a U.S. Court of Appeals seat sent a clear message to the three other appellate nominees hoping for a vote on the Senate floor:


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

Ditto for 16 U.S. District Court nominees also pending in committee. The odds of judicial confirmations after this August recess are exceptionally slim — at best. The Cubs will win the pennant before you’ll be putting on the black robes.

No nominees were confirmed after the August recess when President Bill Clinton was running for reelection in 1996 and only three when President George W. Bush was running for a second term in 2004 — although five got in during the lame-duck session.

Still, a whopping 13 George H.W. Bush nominees, including two for appellate seats, were confirmed after the August recess in 1992, according to Senate Judiciary Committee statistics.

Four Clinton judicial picks were confirmed after the recess in 2000, when Bush II and Al Gore were running, and 10 Bush judges were confirmed during the race between Barack Obama and John McCain, the committee reports.

So with the numbers pretty much set, let’s recap.

President Obama, who started off slowly in getting nominations up to the Senate, never fully caught up. He’s nominated fewer judges (200) than either Bush (228) or Clinton (245) on Aug. 1 of their fourth year in office, according to committee statistics.

At the same time, the Senate has confirmed a smaller percentage of Obama nominees than Clinton nominees — 78 percent, compared with 80.8 percent — and a much smaller percentage than in the Bush administration (86.4).

As a result, Obama, with 78 vacancies, may be the first president in decades to end his first term with more judicial vacancies than when he started.

At this point in their first terms, Clinton had 58 judicial vacancies and Bush had 28. (The latter figure is pretty much full employment.)

Liberals have criticized Obama for not having pushed harder for his nominees, noting that Bush issued a lengthy statement at a 2002 news conference blasting “a handful” of Senate Democrats for holding up his judicial nominees because they “fear the outcome of a fair vote in the full Senate.”

“The Senate has an obligation to provide fair hearings and prompt votes to all nominees,” Bush said, “no matter who controls the Senate or who controls the White House.”

Obama did, however, mention Senate delays in a State of the Union address and in a Saturday radio address, we were told. And Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) intends to keep moving nominees this fall. Well, who knows? Deals are always possible.

But, after those recess appointments of the consumer finance watchdog and some labor folks in January, furious Republicans are not feeling particularly cooperative on appointments.

Spoof, not spook

By design, the CIA isn’t necessarily the most . . . transparent of government agencies. So it’s difficult to imagine the home of spooks and spies would take to Twitter, the epicenter of oversharing.

Still, it seemed that some people were duped by a fake Twitter account that purported to be the official voice of Langley. The user @US_CIA employed the agency’s official seal and at first tweeted messages that seemed straightforward enough to have come out of CIA public affairs. Adding to the ruse, the spoof tweeter had a good command of intelligence issues and jargon. Still, something about the tweets seemed slightly askew, like the addition of the line “If you can’t beat them, join them” to an otherwise mundane hiring notice.

Then the tweets grew increasingly wacky and it became clear that the folks behind it weren’t the real deal.

“The Agency is an equal opportunity employer. Here at the CIA we respect all religions, not just the Church of Latter Day Saints,” read one recent tweet.

Say what? Then this: “Dear Ayatollah @khamenei_ir, please consider tweeting in English. Our sole Arabic speaking NED analyst is out on vacation this week. Thanks!”

Yikes. Cue international crisis.

After our colleague Greg Miller asked around about the mysterious Twitter account, it seems the CIA contacted Twitter to have it shut down.

And alas, don’t expect to get pithy missives from our real-life cloak-and-dagger friends anytime soon.

“I hate to break it to our mass of potential Twitter followers — but the CIA is still not on Twitter,” spokesman Preston Golson told us. “We prefer to keep our daily musings to ourselves. Perhaps someday you’ll be able to read official tweets from Langley, but until then, people can do the old-fashioned thing and check out our Web page.”

To paraphrase an old spy joke, if they tweeted you, they’d have to kill you.

There’s no crying in ethics

A throwaway line in that blistering report from the House Ethics Committee on Rep. Laura Richardson casts new light on the California Democrat’s impressive performance in the congressional softball game.

According to the report, Richardson’s big interview with ethics investigators came on June 20, the day of the big game, which pits female members of Congress against the journalists who cover them. Richardson apparently thought the interview was going on far too long and worried that it would keep her from the action on the diamond.

She “repeatedly made complaints about its length and ultimately demanded that it end so she could participate in an annual Congressional softball game,” the report states. And although investigators suggested reconvening another day, the congresswoman was adamant that they finish up.

We’re not sure how the timing worked out, but we can confirm that the congresswoman arrived at the ball field (at Watkins Recreational Center in the Capitol Hill neighborhood) in plenty of time. She was there when the team was announced — and the stress of an intense congressional investigation didn’t put her off her game. She was one of the team’s strongest players — even though the Lady Lawmakers lost to the Bad News Babes, 13-10, teammates and opponents said Richardson was one of a small handful of players who helped keep the game from being a blowout.

Maybe it was the adrenaline?

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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