Fix the Senate Now

As Senate Nominations Battle Heats Back Up, GOP Grasps at Straws to Justify Obstruction

Washington, DC – The debate over Senate obstruction – and Senate rules reform – has returned to center stage in Washington. This week, Senate Democrats are seeking to advance the nomination of Patricia Millett, the first of three nominees to fill existing vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as Rep. Mel Watt to lead Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Already, Senate Republicans are threatening to block both nominations. The Republicans’ rationale has nothing to do with the nominees’ qualifications and much to do with the GOP’s insistence to use Senate obstructionist tools in an attempt to:

  • Undermine laws and agencies they don’t agree with; and
  • Deny President Obama his constitutional authority to appoint nominees to vacant positions.

See below for claims and realities regarding the impending battles over Senate nominees and for a reminder why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) should follow through on his threats to reform the Senate rules should these latest qualified nominees be denied a vote. 

The qualifications of D.C. Circuit nominee Patricia Millett are near-impossible to attack (Senator Ted Cruz even noted approvingly of Millett’s “very fine professional qualifications”). As a result Republican Senators have been making ridiculous claims to underscore their obstruction:

  • Claim: Filling Existing Judicial Vacancies on the DC Circuit Court Represents “Court-Packing: Republican Senators like John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Mike Lee (R-UT) have continually asserted that attempts to fill the D.C. Circuit’s three outstanding vacancies represents “court packing.” 
  • Reality: Filling Existing Judicial Vacancies is Opposite of Court-Packing: As Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery noted, “charges of ‘court-packing’ are factually incorrect. The term is used to describe an attempt to increase the number of judges on a court with the goal of shifting its political balance, not to fill existing vacancies. One could even make the case that GOP efforts to prevent Obama from filling empty court seats, thereby keeping those courts from having judges appointed by a Democrat, are instances of ‘court-unpacking.’” As conservative columnist Byron York tweeted last spring, "It doesn't strike me as 'packing' to nominate candidates for available seats."  People for the American Way points out, “While President Obama has had just one nominee confirmed to the court, President George W. Bush had four confirmed, George H.W. Bush had three and Ronald Reagan had eight. In fact, 15 of the last 19 judges confirmed to the court were nominated by Republican presidents.” 
  • Claim: the DC Circuit Caseload is Insufficient, Therefore We Don’t Need to Appoint New Judges: Senate Republicans’ other consistent claim regarding the D.C. Circuit vacancies is that the caseload of the D.C. Circuit is insufficient to warrant three new judges.  In fact, Senator Grassley has introduced legislation to shrink the size of the Court.  Again, these charges are without merit.
  • Reality: The D.C. Circuit Court Caseload is Greater than When George W. Bush Made His Appointments – and Chief Justice Roberts Disagrees with GOP Assessment: HuffPost’s Bendery also highlights that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rejects the caseload excuse, signing onto “an April 5 report by the Judicial Conference of the United States that recommends keeping the court at 11 seats.” In fact, the D.C. Circuit Court actually had “a smaller caseload when Republicans worked to fill the 9th, 10th, and 11th seats with George W. Bush’s nominees” (see here for detailed analysis from People for the American Way).

During the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in 2010, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I'm going to vote for her because I believe this election has consequences. And this president chose someone who is qualified to serve on this court…” Elections do have consequences and the same standard should apply to Patricia Millett, as well as Mel Watt and other nominees for outstanding executive and judicial vacancies.

  • Claim: Mel Watt is Unqualified to Lead FHFA. Republican opposition to Watt has been centered on claims that he is unqualified for the FHFA position.
  • Reality: GOP Obstruction Driven by a Dislike of FHFA and Rep. Watt’s Likely Focus Areas: Instead of Watt’s qualifications, Republicans should admit that they don’t like FHFA and Rep. Watt’s record siding with consumers ahead of banking interests. Senate Republicans are asserting that nominee Mel Watt is unqualified.  As a result, they appear prepared to make Mel Watt the first sitting Member of Congress to be filibustered since before the Civil War. See here for an overview of Rep. Watt’s stellar qualifications.

This past summer, the underlying issue prompting the showdown over Senate rules was the GOP’s attempt to make the NLRB and CFPB inoperable and toothless.  Despite the promise of the eventual agreement forged on executive branch nominees, it is clear that the Republicans’ “nullify through obstruction” strategy remains intact and that this Summer’s agreement has failed to provide a new model for Senate functionality.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pledged to revisit Senate rules reform if Republicans continue to block nominations to fill DC Circuit vacancies and remained up to their old tricks.  If Republicans follow through on their filibuster threat, Senator Reid should live up to his.


ICYMI: Lindsey Graham Flip-Flops on Senate Nominations, Pledges to Break Principle He Voiced

Washington, DC – This summer, with the threat of Senate rules reform on the table, the Senate advanced the stalled confirmations of seven qualified executive branch nominees. One of the Republican Senators who helped forge this summer’s agreement was Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

At the time, Sen. Graham noted that holding nominees hostage due to unrelated issues was “wrong.” Now, in just three short months, Senator Graham has flipped on this principle, pledging to abuse the rules and grind the Senate to a halt until his demands are met.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, July 2013: “Cordray was being filibustered because we don’t like the law…That’s not a reason to deny someone their appointment. We were wrong.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, October 2013: “I’m going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors are being made available to the Congress.”

As we noted at the time of July’s agreement over executive branch nominees, the real test of a functional Senate would come on nominations outside the scope of that agreement.  This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is planning to file cloture on a number of long stalled nominations, including one of the three nominees to vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit.

Due to the flip-flop of Sen. Graham – and the principle that Sen. Graham himself articulated in July – Sen. Reid and supporters of a basic and functional U.S. Senate should keep rules reform on the table.

Ted Cruz Still Trying to Hold Government Hostage, Enabled by Senate Rules

Washington, DC – Fresh off his instrumental role in the fiscal-related government shutdown, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is showing that he still intends to hold basic government functioning hostage to his demands – and is being enabled by Senate rules and norms that continue to facilitate obstruction, the Fix the Senate Now coalition said today.

The Hill newspaper reports that Sen. Cruz is now blocking the confirmation of Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), because of Cruz’s fear-mongering that links the FCC to the goals of the DISCLOSE Act (filibustered legislation that “would have required political groups to reveal more information about their donors.”) This comes just days after media reports that Sen. Cruz’s reckless endangerment if the American economy was in part to assist one of the very outside shadowy political groups the DISCLOSE Act would impact.

Of note, the same Hill article reports that attempts “to advance the nomination of Terrell McSweeny for a seat on the Federal Trade Commission” are also being blocked and delayed because “an unidentified senator objected.”

This past July witnessed the Senate advancing the stalled confirmations of seven qualified executive branch nominees – an important step forward toward a functional Senate. However, it is worrisome that the Senate is trending back toward its default of obstruction for qualified nominees.  Beyond the FCC and FTC nominations, other qualified executive branch nominees, such as Rep. Mel Watt for Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), remain caught up in obstruction furthered by outdated Senate rules. 

Qualified nominees should not be able to be blocked for pet political reasons or through anonymous holds. Unless and until the Senate shows it is able to meet its fundamental responsibilities to the American people, Senate rules reform should remain on the table.



Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, October 11, 2013

Washington, DC – Discussions among Senate Democrats of re-engaging on the issue of rules reform emerged this week in light of recent Senate Republican threats to filibuster efforts to raise the debt ceiling.

Blocking a debt ceiling increase using Senate rules would ensure that our country can’t pay its bills and would deliver a devastating blow to our ongoing economic recovery. The very fact that a 60-vote threshold stands in the way of avoiding economic catastrophe is a reminder of why Senate rules are in need of reform.

See below for this week’s key commentary and analysis:

  • Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT): “Every instance of obstruction, exploiting and abusing the 60-vote threshold is additional evidence in favor of changing the Senate rules … The more that is at stake … the more the abuse of the rule argues in favor of changing it.”
  • Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA): “The rules will have to change … If we don’t [have the votes to break a filibuster], then I think it’s time to recognize the new realities that I have been talking about for a number of years. And the reality is that this ain’t your grandma’s Senate.”
  • Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR): “I’m certainly an advocate for ending the paralysis of the Senate … I think we have to continue to look at how the lurching from crisis to crisis is doing deep damage to the economy.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT): “If the Republicans are going to continue to obstruct, and make it impossible to address the needs of the American people, then I think we have to think about changing the rules.”
  • Manu Raju, Politico: ”Senate Democratic leaders are actively considering invoking the “nuclear option” to gut the filibuster if Republican senators block a year-long increase of the debt limit, according to several sources familiar with the matter … The highly controversial move would allow Senate Democrats to pass a debt limit hike through 2014 with just 51 Democratic votes, rather than the 60 that would ordinarily be required to overcome a filibuster.”
  • Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic: “The Senate Democrats are threatening to go nuclear and change the rules under an arcane process to try and pass something to avoid disaster, while many Republicans believe the disaster quickly approaching is about as real as the Loch Ness Monster.” 

FTSN Supports Senator Harry Reid Considering Changing Senate Rules to Pass Debt Ceiling Increase

Washington, D.C. – Following reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Senators are considering changing Senate rules to prevent a filibuster of legislation to raise the debt ceiling  the Fix the Senate Now coalition released the following statement:

“Once again, the default 60-vote threshold for every order of Senate business is threatening both the functionality of the United States Senate and the basic operations and obligations of the federal government. And this time, the consequences could be catastrophic.

“This past summer, the stalled confirmations of seven qualified executive branch nominees helped trigger a showdown and eventual agreement over Senate rules and nominations. As we noted at the time, that agreement was an important first step, but the true test of the supposed new direction in the Senate would be on nominations and matters outside the scope of this summer’s agreement.

“Filibustering a debt ceiling increase would ensure that our country can’t pay its bills and would be devastating to our ongoing economic recovery. The very fact that outdated Senate rules could enable this scenario is a reminder of why Senate rules change remains a critical topic of conversation.

“Senator Reid and other responsible members are right to consider reforming the rules of the Senate itself, to cut down on obstruction, end the gridlock, and avoid an economic catastrophe.”

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Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, October 4, 2013

Washington, DC – With obstruction in full-display this week due to the federal government shutdown, important judicial and executive branch nominations continue to languish in the U.S. Senate.

The shutdown stalled the progress of three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, indefinitely delaying votes to advance their nominations. Considered the nation’s second most important court, the D.C. Circuit Court tackles some of the most sensitive and controversial cases impacting Americans. The confirmation of the slate of three nominees is crucial to the court’s proceedings.

Other important executive branch nominees including Rep. Mel Watt to the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Nicholas Geale to the National Mediation Board are just a few of the many that remain held up. The shutdown underscores how important these nominees are to a fully functioning American government, something every hardworking taxpayer deserves.

Meanwhile, the issue of long-standing federal court vacancies continues to raise alarms with observers across the country. In particular, momentum continues to build for the swift confirmation of Judge William Thomas to a federal district court in South Florida. Thomas’s nomination is currently being delayed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R).

Please see below this week’s developments and highlights: 

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), remarks at the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture at the University of the District of Columbia, “We need sustained pressure to get those judges in front of the Senate. Pressure – pressure on our President, pressure on Senators, pressure in the press. And if the judges don’t get a vote, if they are blocked, if they can’t get through – we need to change the filibuster rules so we can get them through.”
  • David Oscar Markus, former president of the Federal Bar Association’s South Florida chapter, in a South Florida Times piece, “The vacancy for which Judge Thomas was nominated has been open since early 2012. Judge Thomas was selected by our local bipartisan [Judicial Nominating Commission], interviewed and approved by both of our senators and nominated by the president of the United States … Congress has declared the Southern District of Florida to be a ‘judicial emergency’ district, meaning that we need judges immediately,” Markus said. “This emergency is creating a real hardship for litigants in our district because of the delay attendant to judicial vacancies … He [Judge Thomas] should be permitted to have a committee hearing and a full senate vote.”

Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, September 27, 2013

Washington, DC – Senate obstruction and potential rules reform remain key topics of discussion this week.

With floor votes for President Obama’s slate of three D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees expected in the near future, Senate Republicans are forced to decide whether they will let cooler heads prevail and allow the nominations through, or obstruct the nominees and provoke another rules showdown.

Meanwhile, outside observers continue to highlight the growing judicial vacancy crisis and the role of Senate obstruction in hollowing the nation’s courts across the country.

See below a recap of this week’s developments and analysis:

  • Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo: “If Republicans follow through with their threats to filibuster and prevent them from receiving up-or-down confirmation votes, Democrats will face a choice: give up and concede defeat, or revisit filibuster reform.”
  • Jonathan Bernstein, Washington Post: “But this first filibuster of the week — the filibuster over getting to the bill in the first place, a filibuster that chewed up three days despite no Republican actually willing to step up and vote for it — that filibuster was just obstruction for the sake of obstruction. And that’s no way to run a government.”
  • Alliance for Justice, JusticeWatch Blog: “But the Republican’s selective use of the caseload argument exposes their staunch D.C. Circuit opposition for what it really is: pure partisan obstructionism employed solely to keep Democrat-appointed judges off the nation’s second most powerful court. The Republicans like the D.C. Circuit’s current conservative bent, and they are groping for whatever argument they can to maintain the status quo … With the crucial role that the D.C. Circuit plays in the federal judiciary—taking on complex regulatory issues involving the environment, labor, and other areas that directly impact the daily lives of all Americans—there is simply too much at stake.”
  • Ian Millhiser, Think Progress: “The Senate, with its rules that give an unusual amount of power to the minority, simply wasn’t designed for the kind of swift action that needs to occur this week in order to prevent a government shutdown. If a shutdown does occur, it may happen not because Democrats and the required number of Republicans cannot agree on a plan to fund the government, but because the Senate’s rules place far too much power in the hands of nihilists like Ted Cruz.”
  • Shin Inouye, White House spokesperson in an interview with the Washington Blade: “President Obama nominated Judge William Thomas more than 10 months ago … This judicial vacancy has been declared a ‘judicial emergency,’ and the non-partisan American Bar Association has rated Judge Thomas ‘well-qualified.’ Unfortunately, his nomination continues to be stalled, and the Senate should promptly consider it without further delay.”
  • Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post: “Rubio initially recommended Thomas to President Barack Obama late last year as a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. There's a particular urgency to filling the judgeship, vacant for 18 months. The court backlog is so bad that the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has deemed it a “judicial emergency." But something changed in recent months. Rubio withheld his consent for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on Thomas' nomination. It takes both home-state senators to sign off on a confirmation hearing, so without Rubio's approval, Thomas has been stuck in limbo. Florida's other senator, Bill Nelson (D), gave his backing to Thomas months ago.”
  • Editorial, Tampa Bay Times (FL): “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continues to let his desire to appease Republican conservatives get in the way of sound judgment. Rubio has withdrawn his support for William Thomas' nomination to the federal bench. Thomas is an openly gay, black circuit court judge in Miami-Dade County who is opposed by Republican conservatives seemingly for his personal characteristics. Rubio's reversal is unjustified, and he should reconsider …

    “He [Thomas] would have occupied a seat that has been open for more than 18 months, and filling it has been designated a judicial emergency. Now the screening process will have to start again, apparently to find someone who passes Rubio's tea party test.”

  • James F. Bailey, Jr., Jacksonville Daily Record (FL): “Rubio's office said the senator will continue to oppose Thomas, which means the Dade County judge's chance to serve on the federal bench goes nowhere for now. Unfortunately, holding up federal appointments to the bench has become political sport in the Congress. Because of that, up to 10 percent of federal judgeships are often vacant. Putting judicial nominees in the deep freeze is not new. However, reports say that fewer judges have been confirmed under Obama than any administration since President Richard Nixon.”
  • Anne Blythe, Charlotte Observer (NC): “North Carolina still has the nation’s longest-running judicial vacancy in the federal district courts, despite a much heralded attempt by President Barack Obama nearly three months ago to fill the post. The Eastern District of North Carolina has had a judicial vacancy since Jan. 1, 2006 – the day after federal District Court Judge Malcolm Jones Howard semi-retired.”


Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, September 20, 2013

Washington, DC – Rules reform and Senate obstruction remained key topics this week on several fronts - particularly regarding judicial nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court and Senate Republican threats to filibuster legislation to fund the government.

On Thursday, D.C. Circuit Nominee Nina Pillard advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Thursday’s party-line vote signaled no change in Senate Republicans’ efforts to block President Obama’s full slate of highly-qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court.

See below for this week’s commentary and analysis:

  • Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), in an NPR piece on the question of considering rules reform: “Drastic action is certainly appropriate if able and qualified nominees are blocked.”
  • Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), in a Huffington Post opinion piece: “Unable to attack her sterling credentials, some of my colleagues have chosen obstruction over responsibility. Three seats on the D.C. Circuit Court have remained vacant due to stonewalling of judicial nominees in the Senate, to the great detriment of the Court and the citizens we serve. In fact, one of the three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court was last occupied by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts eight years ago.

    “The D.C. Circuit is widely recognized to be one of the most important courts in our nation, weighing key Constitutional issues and other matters of federal law and regulation. Given the complexity and far-ranging impact of the cases the court hears, it is critical we fill vacancies without delay.”

Senator Mazie Hirono on Senate Rules Reform

    • Ailsa Chang, NPR: “Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond law school says there may be fewer cases before the D.C. Circuit, but they're way more labor-intensive. “Administrative agency appeals can be exceedingly complex with hundreds of parties and huge records that run to 50,000 pages. And they can take years to resolve," Tobias says. Judges across the country agree. Just this spring, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a representative body of federal judges, concluded the D.C. Circuit still needed all 11 seats for its caseload. Traditionally, the Senate defers to the conference's recommendations.” 
    • Josiah Bunting I, former superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, in a Politico opinion piece:  “Pillard’s work in United States v. Virginia demonstrated her judgment and dedication to upholding the Constitution. Her work has strengthened the fundamental principles of American democracy that VMI was designed to protect. She deserves to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”
    • Alliance for Justice, “10 Things You Should Know” about D.C. Circuit Court Nominee Nina Pillard: “3. She has bipartisan support—including from top Republican former Justice Department officials. Professor Pillard’s impressive record, integrity, and impartiality have earned her the support of top Department of Justice officials in previous Republican administrations. President George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh and former FBI Director William Sessions both wrote personal letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsing Professor Pillard for the DC Circuit.”

    Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, September 13, 2013

    Washington, DC – Obstruction and rules reform remain key topics for discussion as the Senate continues to consider judicial nominations this week.

    On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing for D.C. Circuit Court nominee Robert Wilkins, one of three nominations made by President Obama. Earlier in the week, a conservative federal appellate court judge debunked Senate Republicans’ long-standing argument for preventing a full bench at the D.C. Circuit Court.

    Nevertheless, Senate Republican plans to obstruct President Obama’s slate of nominees is expected to trigger an upcoming floor battle with Senate Democrats, prompting observers to speculate whether Senate rules reform will re-emerge as an issue.

    Meanwhile, opinion leaders continue to highlight the crisis of judicial vacancies hindering courts across the country. According to the Washington Post’s Jonathan Bernstein, the number of empty posts needed to be filled is nearing 100. Despite this, Senate Republicans on Thursday delayed a committee vote on a judicial nominee to a U.S. District Court in Concord until next week.

    See below for commentary and analysis of this week’s developments:

    • Jonathan Bernstein, Washington Post: “The basic story: Republicans claim no personal objection to Robert Wilkins, but Chuck Grassley and other Republicans are still threatening to block all nominees to that court, based on a laughable theory that the slots don’t need to be filled — a theory that suddenly emerged once Obama began nominating people to fill the vacancies, and one that will most certainly dissolve as soon as a Republican is in the White House.

    “We will soon see whether Republicans back up that theory with unified-party filibusters; if so, Harry Reid and the Democrats will have little choice but to fight back, as they did on executive-branch nominations, by threatening majority-imposed reform."

    • Ian Millhiser, Think Progress: “Judge Tymkovich, however, was at the Senate in his capacity as chair of the federal judicial committee that evaluates which federal courts are truly in need of additional judgeships — i.e. which courts are overworked and which courts are underworked. Tymkovich’s committee did not recommend eliminating a single seat — much less three — from the DC Circuit. Nor did it recommend that seats be added to the Second and Eleventh Circuits, as Grassley has proposed. It did recommend adding two federal appellate seats, but its recommendation was that these seats should be added to the Sixth and Ninth Circuits. In other words, a neutral panel of judges led by a staunchly conservative Bush appointee evaluated the judiciary’s needs and came up with numbers that in no way resemble Grassley’s recommendation.”
    • David Hawkings, Roll Call: “Beyond that, Republicans are keenly aware that confirming any of the president’s picks would likely tilt the court’s ideological center of gravity to the left after several years weighted to the conservative point of view. Like the session in July when the panel heard from Millett, Republicans signaled they would have nothing substantive to say in opposition to the nominee but would instead focus all their confirmation objections on the argument that the seats they would fill should be left vacant.”
    • Todd Ruger, Legal Times: “Wilkins is expected to win committee approval, but the toughest part of the political fight over the D.C. Circuit is yet to come: the Senate floor debate. If Democrats can convince enough Republicans to change the rules or overcome a Republican filibuster, then the nominations could move quickly. But if they can't, the nominations could be stalled indefinitely.”
    • Caroline Frederickson, President of the American Constitution Society, as reported in Legal Times: "The D.C. Circuit has a complex, high-impact caseload that is in desperate need of a full bench of judges … The Senate must now give Judge Wilkins, along with Nina Pillard and Patricia Millett, fair and timely votes as they are nominated to one of the most powerful courts in the country.”


    ICYMI: Orlando Sentinel and Think Progress Highlight Costs of U.S. Senate Obstruction

    Washington, DC – With Congress back from August recess, an impending battle over judicial vacancies is on the U.S. Senate’s crowded to do list. Recent coverage in both Think Progress and the Orlando Sentinel highlight what’s at stake and why it matters:

    In a recent piece, Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser previews a potential Senate showdown over President Obama’s three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court in the next upcoming weeks,

    • According to Think Progress, “A partisan effort to keep the nation’s second most powerful court in Republican hands will flare up against next Wednesday, when the third of President Obama’s three nominees [Judge Robert Wilkins] to this court faces his confirmation hearing.”
    • Senate Democrats are anticipated to once again consider the option of rules reform should Senate Republicans continue to obstruct and delay the nominations process. As Think Progress concludes, “If Republicans do try to block him [Judge Wilkins], Democrats can shut that effort down the same way they shut down the GOP’s last attempt to shape policy by filibustering nominees — by threatening to change the Senate’s rules via the so-called “nuclear option.”

    Meanwhile, a recent Orlando Sentinel piece details the consequences of Senate obstruction on the judiciary, particularly for two of Florida’s federal courts:

    • Considered “among the busiest in the country,” Florida’s Middle and Southern districts have felt the brunt of Senate gridlock when it comes to filling vacant judicial posts. As the Sentinel reports, “Both have two open seats [Flordia’s Middle and Southern districs]; they're authorized for 15 and 18 judges, respectively. Two more vacancies, one in each district, are expected by next April. One seat in particular, in the Middle District, has sat empty since December 2011 ... “
    • While President Obama has already nominated two judges to fill these open seats, Senate Republicans, including Florida’s own Senator Marco Rubio who initially supported one of the nominees, continue to delay the confirmation process by hiding behind concerns over select statements in the nominees’ records. This is in light of both nominees receiving ‘well-qualified’ ratings from the American Bar Association.

    As the Senate convenes this week to tackle a crowded list of agenda items this fall, the Think Progress and Orlando Sentinel pieces serve as important examples of how the Senate, in its current form, is failing to meet its fundamental responsibilities to the American people and why rules reform should remain on the table to fix a broken nominations process.