Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor today to call out Republicans’ continuing efforts to delay the confirmation of qualified, consensus judicial nominees in the face of a longstanding judicial vacancy crisis.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Today, partisanship has stalled even the most uncontroversial judicial appointments.  Senate Republicans allowed no nominees to be confirmed at the end of the last session, and have allowed but five so far this year.  In this environment, even those reported out of committee by voice vote, without any controversy, are unable to receive a floor vote for many months, if they ever receive one at all.

It’s clear that we’re seeing a degree of obstruction that’s unprecedented, and that hampers the ability of the judicial and executive branches to perform their constitutional functions.  It is preventing us, the legislative branch, from fulfilling the responsibility that we owe to the two other branches of government.

 
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

One out of ten—let me repeat that—one out of ten seats on the federal bench is currently vacant.  Judicial vacancies are double—double—what they were at this point in President Bush’s first term.   We have confirmed only three judicial nominees this session, only five in the past 2 months.

. . .

What is going on today is obstruction, plain and simple.  Obstruction against anybody, any nominee, and obstruction at unprecedented levels.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

A unanimous vote or a strong bipartisan vote in the judiciary committee used to be a signal of success on the floor.  Not anymore.  At this point, they reach the ultimate roadblock.  They are stopped on the Senate floor by the Republican minority.  It isn’t just unfair to judicial nominees, many of whom have been proposed by Republican Senators.  It is fundamentally unfair to our court system.  

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

As senators, we have a responsibility to advise the President as to nominations and where we agree, to consent.  And where we don’t, each of us is free to vote “No.”  Some senators have suggested they oppose all nominations in oppositions to the President’s recess appointments.  And in my opinion, a pledge to oppose all nominations is a pledge not to do his or her job.  In my view, we ought not to make such a pledge.  In my view, while so many Americans are out of work and so many of us are here on the public payroll, we can, we should, and we must move forward with judicial nominees.  

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

[Courts] impact real people every day, whether we are talking about people seeking to protect their rights under the Americans with Disabilities act or companies trying to resolve commercial disputes. . . .  Unreasonable delays in court proceedings undermine our system of justice.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

I am concerned, Mr. President, that our judicial confirmation process here in the Senate has broken down due to partisanship, particularly for non-controversial judges. . . .  The real victim here is not only the nominee and their family that are awaiting final Senate action.  The real victim is the American people, who face increasing delays in courts that are overburdened and understaffed.  A higher vacancy rate means lack of timely hearings and decisions by our federal courts, affecting our citizens’ ability to have access to justice and a fair and impartial resolution of their complaints.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

The lack of action on these qualified nominees is hurting our people.  

Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT)

These highly qualified – consensus – nominees should be confirmed without further delay.  They should have been confirmed last year. . . . One hundred and thirty million Americans live in circuits or districts with a judicial vacancy that could be filled if Senate Republicans would consent to votes on these nominees.  The delays are as damaging as they are inexplicable.

The Senate Democratic caucus assembled a video of some of the senators’ speeches. Watch now:

Nineteen judicial nominations reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee await confirmation by the full Senate. Fourteen of those nominations were reported by the Judiciary Committee last year; seventeen of the 19 nominations pending before the full Senate received strong bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee.

The Senate should vote to confirm these nominees without delay.

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on judicial nominations, see the Alliance for Justice’s Judicial Selection Project webpage.

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