Senate Republicans Leave Town, Refusing to Act on Judicial Backlog And Hurting Courts Across America

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 14, 2016) – Senate Republicans control the Senate schedule and whether any nominee will receive a vote.  Despite repeated pleas by Democrats to confirm dozens of uncontroversial judicial nominees, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to allow these confirmation votes and is sending Senators out of town for seven weeks. 

Republicans have even blocked consideration of uncontroversial nominees who would fill vacancies in their home states.  Their obstruction has resulted in justice delayed for Americans and a dramatic increase in the judicial vacancy rate. 

The Tennessee district court nominee, Edward Stanton, who is next on the Executive Calendar, was nominated more than a year ago.  He was approved by Tennessee’s two Republican home state senators but they have not been able to get this Tennessean a vote.  The Wisconsin nominee to fill a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit, Donald Schott, has been blocked repeatedly from consideration on the Senate floor.  He would fill a vacancy that has been unfilled 2380 days.  Schott’s nomination was approved by both Wisconsin Senators, including the state’s Republican senator, but he has not been able to convince the Republican Leader to allow the nominee a confirmation vote.

Republicans have also repeatedly objected to floor consideration of nominees from Pennsylvania, Utah, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

This week, Republicans again refused to confirm a single one of the dozens of judicial nominees pending on the floor.  The Republican majority has the worst record for confirming judicial nominees in the last 60 years, a fact highlighted in Politico today.  Since taking over the majority last January, Senate Republicans have allowed just 22 judicial nominees to be confirmed.  In contrast, in the last two years of the Bush administration, a Democratic-majority Senate confirmed 68 judicial nominees.

Senate Republicans have also taken the unprecedented step of refusing to allow Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote, and they have allowed just one circuit court nominee to be confirmed this year. 

The result of Republican obstruction these last two years has been a sharp increase in judicial vacancies across the country.  When Senate Republicans took over the majority last year, there were 43 judicial vacancies.  Since then, vacancies have nearly doubled to 83.   The number of judicial vacancies deemed to be “emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has significantly increased under Republican Senate leadership – from 12 when Republicans took over last year to 29 today. 

“Republicans should shift their focus from partisan political hopes to the Constitution and our role as Senators,” Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday.  “There is no excuse to delay another day on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination or any of the nominees pending on the floor.  The American people deserve better than a Republican-controlled Senate that would prefer to diminish our courts rather than give the Supreme Court nominee and all pending nominees a fair and public hearing.”

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