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With talk of filibuster reform in the air again, there's been a renewed focus on the sorry state of the federal judiciary, including this Washington Post story from Robert Barnes.
There are more vacancies on the federal courts now than when Obama took office nearly four years ago. And he is the first president in generations to fail to put a nominee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most influential court in the land and traditionally a training ground for Supreme Court justices. [...]

But, depending on what the Senate does in these final days, Obama’s record on the rest of the federal judiciary will show one more opening on the nation’s powerful 13 courts of appeal than when he took office, and more than a dozen additional vacant district court judgeships.

Barnes points out that President Obama has lagged in making nominations, which is true, but Senate foot-dragging is the major contributor: "The average time from nomination to confirmation for a Clinton district judge was about three months. That grew to 154 days for a Bush nominee [...] compared to 223 days for Obama’s choices."

Here's what the delays and footdragging on judicial nominations looks like in chart form:

Chart showing drastic increase in cloture votes required for judicial nominations in the two most recent Congresses.

Judicial nominations, of course, only tell a part of the obstruction story, but a key one. It's how Republicans have been working to make all three branches of government dysfunctional. According to the latest report from the Alliance for Justice, there are now 83 district and circuit court vacancies, and 34 of those vacancies are judicial emergencies.

This obstruction has to end, on nominations and on legislation, for the health of our democracy. For our government to function. The way to do it is with filibuster reform that will end the ease with which a single senator can grind the institution to a halt. If you haven't contacted your senators to urge them to support filibuster reform, please do.

Tell your senator to vote to make the filibuster a real, talking filibuster that requires affirmative votes to continue.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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