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Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R) and ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (L) preside over the second day of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Commitee on Capitol Hill in

Early Tuesday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court, a nomination that Republicans had been obstructing for weeks. In fact, they haven't just obstructed Millett's nomination, but also Nina Pillard's and Robert Wilkins', the additional two appointments to this court the president has sought. Republicans weren't opposing these three because they had issues with their qualifications, or their suitability to serve on this critical court. They had an issue with Obama's nominees filling three vacancies. That's why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went nuclear, and why Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the judiciary committee, changed his position on using the nuclear option and helped Reid make it happen.

The Senate will probably vote on both Pillard's and Wilkins' nominations this week, certainly before it recesses next week. Getting these three new judges confirmed is critical, because the D.C. Circuit is such an important court, below only the Supreme Court in the import of what it decides. But that's a drop in the bucket of judicial vacancies, and there's still going to be plenty of ways for Republicans to continue to obstruct.

In addition to GOP senators simply not making recommendations for nominees to fill court vacancies in their home states, The Huffington Post has counted at least 13 nominees currently stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of nine Republicans (and one Democrat) refusing to put forward "blue slips," or a tradition in the committee that allows senators to advance or block judicial nominees from their home state.

Many of the stalled nominees hail from Arizona, with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) being the top offender in not submitting blue slips. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is refusing to submit a blue slip for his own nominee, William Thomas, who would be the first openly gay black male federal judge if confirmed. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is withholding a blue slip for another key nominee, Jennifer May-Parker, who would fill the longest standing district court vacancy in the country.

Thus far, Leahy hasn't updated his statement from right after the Senate voted to change filibuster rules. At the time he said, "I assume no one will abuse the blue slip process like some have abused the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees on the floor of the Senate. As long as the blue slip process is not being abused by home-state senators, then I will see no reason to change that tradition.”

The abuse is happening right now, in his committee. What's more, the White House is using blue slips as a reason for not putting forward nominees for the myriad vacancies that have persisted throughout his presidency. Leahy can change this process quite easily; it's entirely within his discretion as committee chair to dispense with the blue-slip tradition. There's also very recent precedence—Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) did it when he chaired the committee during the Bush administration. Leahy needs to change the rule so that the 13 stalled nominees get their hearing, and President Obama doesn't have an excuse to avoid filling the all vacancies that persist in the federal judiciary.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (30+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 11:28:09 AM PST

  •  Starting with Liu and Halligan would be best (10+ / 0-)

    They need to be on the federal bench stat!  (and obviously they should be on the shortlist if a SCOTUS vacancy comes up).

    Time for Obama to find some pro-gun control, pro-women's rights judges who also believe that corporations are not people and don't have First Amendment rights.

    I agree with President Obama, our country's journey is not yet complete. We must continue the work that our forebearers at Seneca Falls started, and put the Equal Rights Amendment into our Constitution.

    by pistolSO on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 11:40:18 AM PST

    •  There would be room for them on the DC court (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pistolSO

      if the 2 older Clinton appointees on the court (both are over 70)  took Senior status. That way, they could still serve and Obama could name 2 younger replacements like Halligan and Liu and there's nothing the GOP could do to stop it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Filibuster reform, 2013 - woulda, coulda, shoulda.

      by bear83 on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 09:04:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do away with the blue slips (17+ / 0-)

    They were originally intended as a senatorial courtesy.

    Courtesy is reserved for people who know how to behave like adults, not throw toddler temper tantrums.

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

    by pierre9045 on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 11:40:39 AM PST

    •  Give them 7 weeks to fill in future Blue Slips (6+ / 0-)

      Meanwhile, President Obama should immediately nominate good, Liberal judges for each of those 13 seats where blue slips have not been returned by Republican Senators. That will teach ’em!

      Great article, Joan! This is incredibly important.

      I totally agree – the Democrats have to push much harder and move far faster to end the destructive GOP obstruction.
      .

      “The meaning of life is to find it.”

      by ArcticStones on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:16:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Blue slip abuse is obvious (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LillithMc

      in the states that have vacant judicial seats without nominees. Of the 60 current and future judicial vacancies with no nominees, 39 of them are in just 7 states. This includes 9 of the 10 Circuit Court vacancies that don't have nominees:

      Texas - 11 vacancies, including 3 on the 5th Circuit Court
      Pennsylvania - 10 vacancies, including 2 on the 3rd Circuit Court
      Georgia - 5 vacancies, including 1 on the 11th Circuit Court
      Kentucky - 4 vacancies, including 1 on the 6th Circuit Court
      Florida - 4 vacancies
      Alabama - 3 vacancies, including 1 on the 11th Circuit Court
      Wisconsin - 2 vacancies, including 1 on the 7th Circuit Court

      What do all these states have in common - at least one Teabagger in the Senate.

      http://www.afj.org/...

      If the Senate is supposed to 'advise and consent', where's the suggested nominees for these states?

      Filibuster reform, 2013 - woulda, coulda, shoulda.

      by bear83 on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 09:18:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  RE: (9+ / 0-)
    What's more, the White House is using blue slips as a reason for not putting forward nominees for the myriad vacancies that have persisted throughout his presidency.
    I have no problem with President Obama giving Republicans an opportunity to make recommendations to fill these slots. But if theses assholes don't take advantage of the opportunity within a reasonable amount of time, then it is the Republicans who are fucking with tradition...not those who move forward without them.

    Seriously, what is President Obama's deal? Does he care more about being liked by people who are never going to like him than does about carrying out his opportunity--no his obligation--to fill those vacancies on behalf of the people who elected him?

    •  Sometimes he almost acts (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, tikkun

      like he's the adult child of an alcoholic, even though he isn't.

      Maybe it's the whole "black kid raised in a white world" thing.  You just can never imaging him saying FDR's
      "I welcome their hate," about anyone!

      "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. http://www.kynect.ky.gov/ for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

      by SouthernLeveller on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 12:13:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  OK, I'm calling shenanigans on Joan here... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG, bear83

      If you follow the trail of links, none of the links comes anywhere near having an Obama administration say they WON'T start "filling the tree" with nominees.

      All the admin. is saying is Obama's  not going to go out and disrupt people's lives (the nominee's lives) until the path looks clear for a faster confirmation.  

      I'm sure Obama would LOVE to see blue slips go away if the Repugs use that as the new delay tool.

  •  I'm glad to see we finally have a petition going (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, TofG, zapus, bear83

    to Leahy. After the long, hard, fight on filibuster reform we need to make maximum use of this opportunity.
    We need to push Leahy, PBO, & our Senators to get the judges we need.

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.-J. Toobin "New Yorker"

    by chuck utzman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:22:17 PM PST

  •  Is there any need to lean on the D's on Judiciary? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ArcticStones, TofG, zapus, tikkun, LillithMc

    Dianne Feinstein
    D-California
    Chuck Schumer
    D-New York
    Dick Durbin
    D-Illinois
    Sheldon Whitehouse
    D-Rhode Island
     Amy Klobuchar
    D-Minnesota
    Al Franken
    D-Minnesota
    Christopher A. Coons
    D-Delaware
    Richard Blumenthal
    D-Connecticut
    Mazie Hirono
    D-Hawaii
    The first 3 on the list are usually hopeless, but the others might be sympathetic.

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.-J. Toobin "New Yorker"

    by chuck utzman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:37:29 PM PST

  •  Reid filed cloture on 4 district judges recently, (7+ / 0-)

    one from NH, one from Western NY, and two from Montana.

  •  Awesome! The court will be 7 to 4 good guys! n/t (5+ / 0-)

    "Really nice, but also very serious about his job." Jackie Evancho on President Obama 6/7/12

    by BarackStarObama on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:09:04 PM PST

  •  I don't understand this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zapus, TofG
    and President Obama doesn't have an excuse to avoid filling the all vacancies that persist in the federal judiciary.
    You make it sound as if the President doesn't want to fill these vacancies and I'd be curious why you think this.
    •  He could have put forth people. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisePiper, tikkun, bear83

      He could have selected people to fill ALL the vacancies, and leaned on Leahy to dump the blue slip BS, and he could have done that right from the start.  It would have highlighted the assholiness of the Repubs, if nothing else.  He didn't, and we see the ugly result.   IMO, it's not so much that he doesn't want to fill the vacancies, as that he didn't want to make waves.

      I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

      by tle on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:37:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How would you go about leaning on Leahy? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zapus

        I'd argue that the most effective way is to threaten some sort of withholding of government services in a way that could harm Leahy's constituents, effectively holding them hostage.

        I am perfectly willing to advocate the president bullying senators in this fashion, but I'd like to hear your ideas on how to go about it.

        •  Alas, I'm in no position to make suggestions. (0+ / 0-)

          In the rarified field of battle that is D.C. politics,  I expect that there are many devious, vicious, painstakingly polite ways to get ones way.  And many ways a move can be turned back on the attacker.  I do not have the political skill to play in that game.

          That said... I would not recommend withholding services, as that would probably be pounced on - by Republicans.  If it were me, I'd look for a way to adversely affect Leahy's power, wealth, and influence,  and indirectly suggest what could happen.  You know - the classic Mafia threat; "nice family investment ya got there. Shame if somethin happened to it".

          I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

          by tle on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 06:33:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Pat Leahy doesn't have much wealth (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bear83

            He's one of the non-millionaire minority in the Senate.  He seems to be a dedicated public servant, which is why leaning on his constituents or threatening the political causes that Leahy has most strongly stood for might actually be the most effective way to lean on him.  His respect for the blue slip tradition seems to me to be based in the sort of idealism that finds Realpolitik to be repugnant.

      •  He can do that just fine; but these are flesh and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tikkun, bear83

        blood people with their own legal careers to worry about, and all of them have to put their lives on hold to even think about taking this job.

        I'm sure Obama wants either the Repugs to sign, or Leahy to decide he's had enough and ignore the blue slip tradition.

        My bet is that Leahy is finally going to throw it out, 'cause I don't see these red state baggers signing any slips soon.

  •  Judicial Vacancies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, tikkun

    I simply do not understand President Obama's foot dragging on filling federal judicial vacancies. This has been the tendency of his administration since he was first elected.

    If there ever was any reason for it, there certainly is none now. The Democrats in the Senate have done their part. It is time for the President to do his part.

    •  Any "name" he puts forward has a face and a soul, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tikkun, bear83

      not to mention a career to think of.  These folks are often up and comers or relatively big names in small ponds, and taking one of these federal jobs is a lifetime decision.  Yes, it's prestigious for them, and a possible rung getting them to a higher court, but it's a "BFD".

      What Obama doesn't want is for them to put their lives on hold for nothing if Leahy isn't serious about doing some damage to the blue slip.

  •  Tip'd, Rec'd & Tweeted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, tikkun

    Very clean read on a serious and subtle process which baffles far too many citizens who's lives are deeply affected by these vacancies on Federal Courts.

    Thanks Joan!


    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:36:13 PM PST

  •  Hopefully Podesta will push Obama to fill (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, zapus, tikkun, bear83

    the judgeships that he needs to fill in 2014.

    President Obama, January 9, 2012: "Change is hard, but it is possible. I've Seen it. I've Lived it."

    by Drdemocrat on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:41:58 PM PST

  •  His recent grudging acquiesance to modest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deben

    filibuster reform notwithstanding, Leahy clearly respects process more than governance.

    In 2006 Obama explicitly and definitively ruled out a 2008 run for president and declared he would remain in the senate until his term expired in 2010. Can we please stop the "Warren won't run" bullshit?

    by WisePiper on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:48:09 PM PST

  •  WTF's wrong with these Democrats? (0+ / 0-)

    Scowling isn't going to intimidate Repugs. They enjoy ticking off their opponents. It's how their small minds decide they're onto something.

    Get rid of the idiotic Senate traditions and quit pretending it's all the fault of stinking Republicans when you don't do the damn jobs that you have been elected and paid to do.

    Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

    by deben on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 08:26:24 PM PST

  •  Curious (0+ / 0-)

    Who's the Democrat who is withholding a blue slip?

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