The latest Democratic attempt to vote on one of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees ran into a roadblock Tuesday -- in the form of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell objected to holding a vote on the nomination of Jane Stranch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Stranch, a Nashville, Tenn., lawyer, was nominated in August 2009, and she’s been waiting for a confirmation vote by the full Senate since November.
There has been no public effort to block Stranch’s confirmation, though Democrats haven’t made her nomination a priority, either.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tried to change that by bringing up Stranch’s nomination on the Senate floor on Tuesday. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) chimed in, calling Stranch well-qualified and saying that all nominees deserve a vote.
“I know it is difficult with the amount of matters that we have on the Senate floor to schedule anything, including a circuit judge,” Alexander said. “But it would be my hope that the Republican leader and the majority leader could, before long, set a time certain for an up-or-down vote.”
“I know my good friend from Tennessee is interested in this nomination,” McConnell replied. “There were, however, some ‘no’ votes on the nominee in committee, and we’ll be running the traps on our side and seeing if we can work out both a debate time and a time to take this nomination up in the not-too-distant future.”
McConnell’s move doesn’t necessarily mean he opposes Stranch’s confirmation. Under Senate rules, any senator can object to ending debate on a matter, and Senate leaders sometimes register that objection on another senator’s behalf, allowing that senator to remain anonymous. In committee, Republicans questioned Stranch over her work for the AFL-CIO and other unions.
Lack of time can also be a problem for nominees, as Alexander mentioned. On two days last week, for example, the Senate didn’t take any votes on any matter, as senators negotiated behind closed doors about financial regulation.
Leahy, in a statement this afternoon, said McConnell’s objection “ratcheted up the obstruction and partisanship that has become commonplace this Congress with regard to judicial nominees.” A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Republicans have frequently complained that Leahy treated the judicial nominees of President George W. Bush no better.