The issue of judicial nominations causes an outbreak of hypocrisy in both political parties, and President Obama isn't immune. In fact, he seems to have come down with a particularly bad case lately.
On June 4, the president went to the Rose Garden to deliver a peevish and lecturing speech announcing three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Noting that it is the president's constitutional duty to nominate judges and the Senate's duty to provide advice and consent, a clearly frustrated Obama said, "Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote."
"As a result," Obama continued, "my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor. Let me repeat that: My nominees have taken three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor."
Obama's claim seemed heartfelt, but it wasn't anywhere near true. As it happens, the Congressional Research Service has just done a study comparing judicial nominations in the first terms of several recent presidents. Among other things, the study noted how long each president's nominees waited from the day they were nominated to the day they were confirmed.
When it comes to the circuit courts of appeals, the level just below the Supreme Court, Obama's nominees have actually moved through the Senate faster than those of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush. The CRS study found that Bush's first-term nominees waited an average of 277 days for confirmation, while Obama's waited 240 days. So not only did Obama's nominees not wait three times longer than Bush's, they actually made it to the bench faster.
As for the U.S. district courts, which have far more seats than the circuit courts, the study found that Obama's nominees have waited an average of 222 days, while Bush's waited 156. So Obama's picks have waited longer before confirmation -- but nowhere near three times as long.
But what about the final results? As it turns out, Obama has had a higher percentage of his circuit court nominees confirmed during his first term than Bush did. The CRS report notes that 71.4 percent of Obama's circuit court nominees were confirmed in his first term, compared with 67.3 percent in Bush's first term.
When it comes to district judges, Bush fared better, winning confirmation for 95 percent of his nominees in his first term, compared with 82.7 percent for Obama.