The Senate overwhelmingly voted today to confirm Kevin McNulty to be a judge for the District of New Jersey. Once again, the debate had more to do with the partisan politics of judicial confirmations than McNulty's qualifications to be a federal judge.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) both made floor speeches that mentioned support for McNulty, who was approved in a 91-3 vote. But they filled the balance of their speeches with statistics about how long nominees have waited for votes, and who is to blame for the high number of federal judicial vacancies.
President Barack Obama could become the first president in recent history to have more judicial vacancies at the end of his first term than when it started. There are 17 nominees who have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and await a vote on the floor.
Both of New Jersey's Democratic senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, spoke in support McNulty, a New Jersey native and the brother-in-law of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer, who voted "present" in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote because of a conflict of interest, likely was also the one "present" vote before the full Senate.
McNulty has been a director at the Newark, N.J.-based Gibbons law firm since 1998, where he chairs the firm's appellate practice and is a member of the business and commercial litigation department. McNulty served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of New Jersey for over a decade.
"He's a respected leader with solid judgment," Lautenberg said on the Senate floor. "He's going to be great on the bench. He's eminently qualified and will make an exceptional judge."
McNulty waited since December for a confirmation vote. Menendez used his speech to say he hoped Republicans would allow floor votes soon on two other pending nominees for New Jersey federal judgeships who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Michael Shipp was nominated for a District Court spot in January; Patty Shwartz was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in October.
Leahy mentioned those nominees while blaming Republicans for being obstructionist with Obama's nominations — even when both home state senators approve of the nominee and there is broad support for them. In turn, Grassley said Obama was to blame for the slow pace of nominations reaching the Senate.