The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to once again approve three circuit court nominees, all of whom were first nominated more than a year ago and received what were essentially unanimous votes from the committee last year.
Those nominees – Richard Taranto for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Robert Bacharach for the Tenth Circuit and William Kayatta Jr. for the First Circuit – all had their nominations languish in the full Senate, never getting a confirmation vote for months. To continue to be considered, the White House had to renominate them this session.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee's chairman, is pushing hard to make sure these nominees go through the process as quickly as possible. He put them on the agenda for the first judiciary committee business hearing of the new session Thursday and discouraged more committee hearings on these nominees by threatening to hold them on the weekend.
And Leahy scolded Republicans for using a traditional Senate rule to hold over the vote one week. Leahy pointed out that even the Republican senator from Maine, whose state is in the First Circuit, has strongly urged that Kayatta's nomination be expedited. "We reported him unanimously 10 months ago, and now we're delaying him another week," Leahy said.
"We have got to do something better than delaying qualified people who were voted out of this committee unanimously and then are not allowed to have a [full confirmation] vote, where they'd also be voted unanimously," Leahy said.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee's ranking member, pointed out at the meeting that Republicans had been helpful by allowing a committee vote on the nominations without redoing the nomination hearings from last session. There are three new senators on the committee who never got a chance to ask questions during a nomination hearing, Grassley said.
Leahy responded by saying he already informed anyone who wanted new hearings that he would hold them. "We'd start on Friday morning and we'd go straight through Saturday and Sunday and Monday until we had them all," Leahy said. "Which wouldn’t have accomplished much."
Taranto and Bacharach would be filling vacancies that have been open for more than 2.5 years. Last year, the committee approved Taranto, Barcharach and Kayatta with a voice vote.
All three times there was a "no" vote from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was voting against all judicial nominees at that point as a protest against President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.