JUDICIAL FILIBUSTERS FOR ME, NOT FOR THEE…. David Hamilton of Indiana, President Obama’s first appeals court nominee, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee 158 days ago. Care to guess how many George W. Bush nominees were held in limbo this long in the last Congress? Zero.
And yet, Hamilton’s nomination hasn’t been brought to the floor due to unprecedented Senate Republican obstructionism. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to force the issue, bring Hamilton to the floor, and seek a cloture vote.
Leading the charge against Hamilton will be Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama. Perhaps now would be a good time to point out what Jeff Sessions had to say about blocking judicial nominees as recently as four years ago:
“I have stated over and over again on this floor that I would refuse to put an anonymous hold on a judge; that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported; that I felt the Senate should do its duty. If we don’t like somebody the President nominates, vote him or her up or down. But don’t hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo….”*
At the time, Sessions added that denying a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote was inconsistent with a process that has been in place “since the founding of the republic.”
I guess he’s changed his mind. How convenient.
It’s worth emphasizing that when the president nominated Judge Hamilton for the7th Circuit seven months ago, Obama did so specifically because Hamilton has a record of moderation. The nomination was intended to send a signal that the process of filling judicial vacancies need not be contentious. “We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us,” one White House aide said back in March.
Obama can’t win for trying. No matter how moderate his nominees, no matter how qualified they are, no matter how much support they may garner, Senate Republicans are going to do what no Senate minority has ever done — try to block them all, just a few years after arguing that any attempts to filibuster a judicial nominee tears at the very fabric of our republic.
With a 60-member caucus, Reid can hopefully make some quick progress on this. And if there are any Republicans left who are willing to concede that these tactics are ridiculous, now would be the ideal time for him or her to step up.
* Update: I’ve been informed that, while Sessions made these remarks on the Senate floor, he was quoting Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) at the time. While Sessions has gone from a fierce opponent of judicial filibusters (of a Republican president’s nominees) to someone who actually leads the way on judicial filibusters (of a Democratic president’s nominees), the quote attributed to him did not accurately reflect his own remarks.