Yesterday, with the U.S. Senate scheduled to vote on the nomination of Maryland Judge Andre M. Davis to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, I wrote about how President Obama’s judicial nominees were getting votes one at a time.
Well, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had other plans. As he and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, discussed Davis’ qualifications, Leahy moved to have the Senate take up the nomination of Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell (right) for federal judgeship in the Middle District of Florida.
Without objection, the motion was approved, and just after the Senate confirmed Davis by a vote of 72-16, it unanimously approved Honeywell, 88-0. (Honeywell was on the same panel as West Virginia Judge Irene C. Berger that appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 9. They both passed out of committee on Oct. 1, and Berger was confirmed Oct. 27.)
Once again, Republicans and Democrats sparred over the pace of judicial confirmations by the Senate. During his remarks, Sessions objected to the suggestion that Republicans are responsible for the five vacancies on the 4th Circuit:
I find it breathtaking that people would suggest that the Republicans, who tried to fill that vacancy for 9 years and had the nominees blocked, were responsible for vacancies which have been there for a long time. I find that quite an odd thing.
Sessions noted that President George W. Bush nominated four candidates four the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008, whose nominations expired without any receiving an up-and-down vote by the full Senate.
Some of them never even got a hearing, despite being highly qualified, outstanding nominees. So Judge Davis has done pretty well in getting his case before the Senate and being able to get a vote.
Except the exact same thing happened to Judge Davis when he was first nominated for the 4th Circuit of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Davis never received a hearing, and his nomination expired without the Senate ever taking it up. Both parties tend to drag their feet on nominations made during the final year of a lame-duck presidency. That’s part of the way the game is played.
Leahy countered Sessions by saying it was “outrageous” that so few nominees were getting votes:
While it is not surprising, it is nonetheless disappointing the Senate has been prevented from considering this nomination for 5 months by Republican objections. I am not surprised because Senate Republicans began this year threatening to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominations before he had made a single one. They have followed through with that threat by obstructing and stalling the process, delaying for months the confirmation of well-qualified, consensus nominees. Last week, the Senate was finally allowed to consider the nomination of Judge Irene Berger, who has now been confirmed as the first African-American Federal judge in the history of West Virginia. The Republican minority delayed consideration of her nomination for more than 3 weeks after it was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee. When her nomination finally came to a vote, it was approved by an overwhelming vote of 97-0. That follows the pattern that Republicans have followed all year with respect to President Obama’s nominations. I expect Judge Davis to be confirmed by a bipartisan majority, but only after a 5-month stall.
By Nov. 9 in President Bush’s first year, 17 federal judges (four circuit judges and 13 district judges) had been confirmed, Leahy said. By contrast, Davis is the 2nd circuit judge and Honeywell the 4th district judge approved under President Obama. It’s worth bearing in mind that Obama (and the Senate) had a seat on the Supreme Court to worry about in 2009, which Bush did not in 2001.
Still, Leahy bemoaned the current state of things:
Senate Republicans are intent on turning back the clock to the abuses they engaged in during their years of resistance to President Clinton’s moderate and mainstream judicial nomination. The delays and inaction we are seeing now from Republican Senators in considering the nominees of another Democratic President are regrettably familiar. Their tactics have resulted in a sorry record of judicial confirmations this year–less than a handful–with 10 judicial nominees currently stalled on the Senate Executive Calendar.