The threat of filibuster reform by Senate Democrats is another example of political gamesmanship. Senate Democrats are trying to give the impression that Senate Republicans are obstructionists blocking judicial nominees without being given a fair confirmation, nothing could be further from the truth. Today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) took to the Senate floor and tried to clear up some of these false accusations. He started by saying:
The Senate confirmed a higher percentage of President Obama’s first-term appeals court nominees, and did so faster, than it had for President Bush. The 111 judges confirmed in the previous Congress was the highest total in more than 20 years. Now we are at the beginning of President Obama’s second term. The Senate is on a faster second-term confirmation pace than under any President in American history.
Hatch further called for an end to these gimmicks:
It is time to stop the gimmicks and fake numbers. It is time to stop the filibuster fraud. A cloture motion is simply a request to end debate while a cloture vote is an actual attempt to end debate. A filibuster occurs when that attempt to end debate fails. Let’s look specifically at judicial filibusters. The majority should know the judicial filibuster facts because, after all, they pioneered the use of filibusters to defeat judicial nominees who would otherwise be confirmed. Why are they engaging in filibuster fraud? One possibility is that the majority wants to cover up the fact that President Obama has consistently lagged behind his predecessors in making judicial nominations. The Senate, after all, cannot confirm nominations that do not exist.
Hatch then went into the judicial vacancies that President Obama has chosen to appoint, which have been the ones that are most political prudent and not the ones that are necessary.
Not all vacancies, of course, are created equal. Some are more pressing than others. President Obama recently sent to the Senate nominees for the three remaining vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the majority is demanding swift confirmation. By the Democrats’ own standards, however, these nominees should not be considered. In 2006, Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote then-Chairman Arlen Specter to oppose considering a D.C. Circuit nominee. That letter, which I have here, said that another D.C. Circuit nominee “should under no circumstances be considered – much less confirmed…before we first address the very need for that judgeship…and deal with the genuine judicial emergencies identified by the Judicial Conference.”
Hatch closed with the following:
The process of considering President Obama’s judicial nominees, however, is being conducted reasonably and fairly. The majority apparently will do anything, even engaging in filibuster fraud, to avoid admitting the facts while hoping that no one will be the wiser. The truth is that filibusters are down, not up, and there have been far fewer judicial filibusters of Obama nominees than there were of Bush nominees. The D.C. Circuit’s caseload is down while the number of judicial emergencies without nominees is up. There is a better course than provoking unnecessary confrontations by nominees to positions that should not even exist or by threatening to change confirmation procedures that should not be changed. The majority should abandon their strategy of filibuster fraud and prioritize filling the most pressing vacancies.
The bottom line is that Senate Democrats are creating another manufactured crises to try to push their nominees through. There is clearly a double standard here because when President Bush was in office Senate Democrats certainly didn’t mind the process that was in place for confirming judicial nominees. The pace for confirming Obama’s judicial appointees is ahead of where President Bush’s was. It is clear this “filibuster fraud” is just another shallow political ploy.