Later today, the Senate is going to vote to confirm Michelle T. Friedland to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court. You can read up on her here – she’s pretty darn impressive in both competence and politics.
Oh, and by the way, the Senate will also appoint David Weill as the administrator of the Wages and Hours Division for the Department of Labor, you know, the people who stop low-wage workers from getting ripped off by their employers.
You probably haven’t read much of anything about either nomination. These appointments seem entirely unremarkable and ordinary. Frankly, they should be, it’s a routine part of making government function. And in the post-filibuster world, routine nominations, judicial and otherwise actually seem to be proceeding fairly smoothly for the first time in five years.
During the first four months of 2014, the Senate has confirmed 20 judicial nominations – the most of any of the first four months of any calendar year of the Obama administration. On average, Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to be confirming either one appeal court nominee or four district judges per week the Senate has been in session this year.
Things aren’t perfect. In some cases Republicans are still blocking qualified nominees in committee through the blue slip system– like North Carolina’s Jennifer Prescod May-Parker. In other cases, Republicans aren’t providing any input on nominees at all – like in Texas while the state’s federal bench languishes, as Houston's ever-handy Charles Kuffner has pointed out. And in some cases, they are driving a hard line – insisting on having Obama nominate a large number of their nominees in exchange for seating a few of his, like in the Northern District of Georgia -- a deal that has irked the state's civil rights community.
Even the Friedland nomination should have been voted on before the Senate left town for the Easter recess on April 10, but Republicans insisted upon using their allotted 15 hours of debate to slow down the nomination (though none of them actually planned to debate).
However, overall the nominees are both flowing in a more orderly manner through the confirmation process. There are currently 50 judicial nominations awaiting action in the Senate (eight appeals and 42 district). Thirty-one of those have moved through the judiciary committee and are awaiting final confirmation.
Among those 31 include several nominees from Arizona and South Carolina, who had been languishing for months in committee.
Once those are confirmed (hopefully by August) that will leave Obama with 50 appellate appointments and 214 district appointments – roughly on track to match George W. Bush’s total number of appointments.
Overall then, move to end the filibuster for most executive appointments seems to have been a good one.