05.16.16

Senate Republicans Allow Confirmation Vote On Single Judicial Nominee While Holding Up Dozens More

From Trial Courts To Supreme Court, Americans Are Finding It Harder To Seek Justice In Our Courts Because Of GOP Obstruction

WASHINGTON (Monday, May 16, 2016) – While Senate Republicans finally allowed a vote on the nomination of Paula Xinis to fill a judicial emergency vacancy in Maryland, dozens of judicial nominees—including a Supreme Court nominee—are being held up due to partisan obstruction.  As a result, Americans are finding it more difficult to seek justice in our courts, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Monday.

“Because of Republican obstruction, our independent judiciary is struggling to perform its role under the Constitution,” Leahy said, noting that a judge on the Eastern District of Texas recently warned that plaintiffs would experience “draconian kinds of delays” if more judges are not confirmed soon.

Senate Republicans have allowed just 18 judicial nominees to be confirmed since taking over the majority last year.  In sharp contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 68 judicial nominees in the last two years of President Bush’s tenure. 

District court nominees from New Jersey, Nebraska, Tennessee, California, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii are all pending on the Senate floor.  Senate Democrats have repeatedly sought to confirm these nominees, all of whom have the support of their home state Senators and were overwhelmingly reported by the Judiciary Committee.  However, Senate Republicans have blocked every request to clear the nominations backlog and confirm these nominees.

This obstruction extends all the way to the Supreme Court.  Senate Republicans continue to refuse to allow Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to appear for a confirmation hearing, breaking with 100 years of Senate history and putting partisan politics ahead of an independent judiciary.  As a result, the Court has been unable to operate at full strength.  Just today, eight justices were unable to reach the merits in two cases impacting women and consumers, marking the latest example of the High Court’s inability to fully function without a full complement of justices. 

Leahy called on Republican leaders to end their partisan obstruction and schedule a confirmation hearing and a vote on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

“I was heartened to hear the Majority Leader last week make the point that an election year is ‘not an excuse not to do our work.’  I whole-heartedly agree,” Leahy said.  “The Supreme Court should not be held hostage to election year politics.  I urge the Majority Leader to heed his own advice by scheduling confirmation votes on the lower court nominees we have pending, and I urge the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to follow suit by scheduling a confirmation hearing for Chief Judge Garland.”

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