Six months and counting for Diaz and Wynn

July 27, 2010 by Andrew Clevenger

As of today, it has been exactly six months since the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of two North Carolina judges for seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. But the entire Senate has yet to take a vote on James A. Wynn and Albert Diaz, who mustered one single nay vote between them as they passed out of committee, thanks in part to anonymous holds.

Earlier this month, the Greensboro News & Record noted that after Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., took to the Senate floor to lobby on behalf of her state’s nominees, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spelled out why he refused to sign off on putting Wynn and Diaz to a vote. He was upset with President Obama’s recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to the post of Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Democrats did not schedule so much as a committee hearing for Donald Berwick. The mere possibility of allowing the American people the opportunity to hear what he intends to do with their health care was reason enough for this administration to sneak him through without public scrutiny.

Given the President has been so dismissive of the Senate’s right to provide advice and consent under the Constitution, I am not inclined at this point to consent to the request proposed by my friend from North Carolina. Therefore, Mr. President, I object.

Today, President Obama noted that he discussed confirming judicial nominees with McConnell during a meeting with Republican leaders.

[D]uring our meeting today, I urged Senator McConnell and others in the Senate to work with us to fill the vacancies that continue to plague our judiciary.  Right now, we’ve got nominees who’ve been waiting up to eight months to be confirmed as judges. Most of these folks were voted out of committee unanimously, or nearly unanimously, by both Democrats and Republicans. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that they were qualified to serve.  Nevertheless, some in the minority have used parliamentary procedures time and again to deny them a vote in the full Senate.

If we want our judicial system to work — if we want to deliver justice in our courts — then we need judges on our benches. And I hope that in the coming months, we’ll be able to work together to ensure a timelier process in the Senate.

Now, we don’t have many days left before Congress is out for the year. And everyone understands that we’re less than 100 days from an election. It’s during this time that the noise and the chatter about who’s up in the polls and which party is ahead threatens to drown out just about everything else.

But the folks we serve — who sent us here to serve, they sent us here for a reason. They sent us here to listen to their voices. They sent us here to represent their interests — not our own. They sent us here to lead. And I hope that in the coming months, we’ll do everything in our power to live up to that responsibility.

A few months ago, I wrote that four months seemed to be the standard amount of time that appelate judges had to wait to get a vote in the Senate. Well, Diaz and Wynn have blown past that mark, thanks in part to the time and energy devoted to Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But they’re not even the worst off: Jane Branstetter Stranch, a Tennessee judge up for a seat on the 6th Circuit, has been left in judicial limbo since Nov. 19.

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