Liberal groups are gearing up for a new round of lobbying on President Barack Obama's judicial nominees.
The American Constitution Society has launched a website, JudicialNominations.org, in an attempt to highlight vacancies on the federal bench. The Center for American Progress, which advocates on a wide array of issues, is zeroing in on nominations, too, with statistics on the percentage of Obama nominees who have and have not been confirmed. And Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, is writing about the issue today on the liberal Huffington Post.
The flurry of advocacy comes three days after Obama, in a rare public mention of judicial nominations, urged the Senate to act.
“The problem is that the Senate rules make it impossible to get the most basic stuff done,” said Ian Millhiser, a policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, in a conference call with reporters today. “This is just a rank abuse of the rules. It must stop.”
Liberals’ complaint is that Republican senators won’t agree to bring nominees up for votes — forcing Democrats to choose between ignoring the issue and spending time on the Senate floor to break GOP objections. Republicans say they’ve treated Obama’s nominees no worse than Democrats treated President George W. Bush’s nominees, and that Democrats have themselves to blame for putting legislative issues such as health care ahead of judges.
“The first person Obama should look at is Obama, because half of all the vacancies don’t even have a nominee,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, in an interview. “The second person they should look at is Harry Reid. He has just not made it a priority.” Reid (D-Nev.) has control of the Senate’s agenda as the majority leader.
There are 98 vacancies on the circuit and district courts, according to the United States Judicial Conference. There are 47 nominations pending.
Kendall, on the same conference call with Millhiser, said that Obama’s nominees have faced difficulty even though they have had the support of home-state senators, including Republicans. “It’s one of those things where President Obama has worked very hard and it’s kind of been thrown in his face,” Kendall said.
Senators are set to leave Washington in a week for a month-long recess, so any major push to confirm nominees will likely have to wait for September, at the earliest.