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.