While we were all focused on the primary elections on Tuesday, something interesting happened on the Senate floor when Democrats made a conscious, polite and ultimately futile effort to get a few judges confirmed.
Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked for unanimous consent to vote on Obama's eleven district court nominees that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee -- without objection -- and have been awaiting the action of the full Senate (see the full Senate Calendar here).
Sen. Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) objected to the request.
Then Chuck Schumer (D- New York) asked for unanimous consent to vote on the seven that have been approved by Judiciary -- again without opposition -- and have been waiting on the floor since November 5.
McConnell again objected.
Then Ben Cardin (D - Maryland) said, OK, could we vote on the four that have been waiting on the floor since October 29 -- six months ago. Those are
Paula Xinis, District of Maryland,
Brian R. Martinotti, District of New Jersey,
Robert F. Rossiter, Jr., District of Nebraska,
Edward L. Stanton III, Western District of Tennessee
John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected.
Finally, Cardin said, could we maybe just vote on the Xinis nomination, since she was approved by Judiciary in September, no one has raised any opposition to her and she has been awaiting floor action for seven months?
Cornyn objected again.
We all know about the near complete refusal of Senate Republicans to even meet with, let alone hold hearings for, vote on or even, gasp, approve President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
But we can't forget about the rest of these nominations either that are facing nearly a complete blockade by Republicans. In addition to the eleven awaiting floor action, 41 nominees are awaiting action in the Judiciary Committee.
In the 2015-2016 Congress to this point, the GOP-controlled Senate has only confirmed two circuit court appointments and fifteen district court judges.
For comparison, in the 2007-2008 Congress through April 30, the Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed seven of George W. Bush's circuit court nominees and 38 of his district court nominees.
And in 2013-2014, by April 30, the Democratic controlled Senate had confirmed fifteen nominations to the circuit courts and 54 to the district courts.
It's reasonable that the GOP wants to scrutinize Obama's appointments a bit more (and even reject a few), but these 11 judges have had been scrutinized. They've been waiting for confirmation between seven and 14 months. They have all cleared a GOP-controlled Judiciary committee by voice vote. There is no opposition -- reasonable or otherwise -- to giving them their commissions. This is only about delay.
These are judges that are uncontroversial and needed to help the government perform their basic functions. Unlike Garland, they don't represent huge ideological stakes in themselves, so a bit of pressure might get the Republicans to let a few go.
Consider calling your state's Senators, especially if they are Republicans -- and especially if you're from Texas and have Cornyn as your Senator. (Don't e-mail, that's useless). Here's a list of numbers for their Washington offices. State your name, and give a brief, polite (don't be a jerk) message asking them to hold a vote on the 11 district court nominees that await floor action.
The 11, including their numbers on the executive calendar are:
#307 Paula Xinis, District of Maryland,
#357 Brian R. Martinotti, District of New Jersey,
#358 Robert F. Rossiter, Jr., District of Nebraska,
#359 Edward L. Stanton III, Western District of Tennessee
#362 Julien Xavier Neals, District of New Jersey
#363 Gary Richard Brown, Eastern District of New York
#364 Mark A. Young, Central District of California
#459 Marilyn Jean Horan, Western District of Pennsylvania,
#460 Susan Paradise Baxter, Western District of Pennsylvania,
#461 Mary S. McElroy, District of Rhode Island
#508 Clare E. Connors, District of Hawaii