This afternoon Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on Judge Robert E. Bacharach’s nomination to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. A vote is expected next Monday at 5:30pm. Bacharach is a noncontroversial nominee, rated unanimously “well qualified” by the ABA, who was reported out of the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. Ultraconservative Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and James Inhofe (R-OK) both strongly back his nomination. Indeed, when recently asked about the efforts to block a vote on Judge Bacharach, Senator Coburn told The Oklahoman on June 12, 2012 that: “I think it’s stupid.” Senator Inhofe, in introducing Bacharach at his committee hearing, said that: “I believe that Judge Bacharach would continue the strong service Oklahomans have provided the Tenth Circuit.”
The question now is whether Senate Republicans will vote in support of an unquestionably qualified, consensus nominee.
Earlier this summer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-NV) invoked the so-called “Thurmond Rule”, an informal call to arms for Republican senators to block judicial nominees before the election so as to keep seats vacant for a potential future Republican president to fill. If Republicans were to block Bacharach, however, it would be first time a circuit court nominee reported to the floor with bipartisan support has been successfully filibustered.
Blocking the confirmation of Judge Bacharach would add yet another obstructionist precedent to the growing pile of similarly inglorious precedents four years in the making. The net effect of this obstructionism has been to keep dozens of judgeships unnecessarily vacant. These efforts have gone far beyond simple political retribution. Indeed, by July 26, 2004, 197 of President Bush’s circuit and district nominees had been confirmed. By July 26 of this year, only 154 of President Obama’s circuit and district nominees have been confirmed, more than 40 confirmations fewer than at this point in President Bush’s first term. Due to Republican obstruction, President Obama will be the first President in at least 30 years to complete his first term with more judicial vacancies than when he took office.
Simply put, it’s time for Senate Republicans to stop playing politics with the federal judiciary and start confirming nominees who everyone agrees would be great judges and who are desperately needed in courtrooms around the country. Click here to tell your Senators to end the filibuster of Judge Bacharach.
For more information on vacancies and pending nominees visit AFJ’s Judicial Selection Project.