Last week, after being embarrassed in the press for not having confirmed any federal judges this year, Senate Democrats finally allowed one appellate court nominee, Catharina Haynes, to be confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
If Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the man primarily responsible for the virtual confirmation moratorium in the 110th Congress, thinks this will appease the American people who want the Senate to live up to its constitutional duties, he couldn’t be more wrong.
The fact is that one appellate court nominee for the whole year is an abysmal record. Seven confirmations during the last two years of President Bush’s term, compared to the 15 confirmed during the last two years of President Clinton’s term, still calls into question the Democratic leadership’s commitment to the Constitutional process. And to ignore nominations like the four nominations to the Fourth Circuit, which is one-third vacant, further highlights many Democrats’ complete disregard for the public’s well-being.
In light of this and many other practices, it is no wonder polls show on average that over 70% of Americans disapprove of this Congress’ performance.
It’s not that obstructionist senators are voting down nominees; they are within their rights to do that. It’s that they’re not voting on them at all. In fact, they are not even holding hearings on them. As Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) pointed out on a recent floor speech, “Since September 25 of last year, there has only been one hearing for a circuit judge, and that was on February 21, in the midst of a recess."
Consider that there are currently ten Court of Appeals nominees pending and not one of them has had a hearing this year and you will understand why the American people’s frustration keeps growing while political games continue to be played.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) said in a recent statement that, “The Chairman’s unwillingness to even hold hearings on numerous judicial nominees is a gross dereliction of duty. It is disappointing that the committee is putting election year partisan politics ahead of its constitutional duty to give ‘advice and consent’ to the president’s judicial nominees. These delays are a transparent and political attempt to run out the clock on President Bush’s term.”
And that seems to be what is driving this gross negligence on the part of many Democrats, the hope of winning the White House this November.