This morning, a mere day after an agreement was negotiated to vote on 14 long-delayed judicial nominations over the next several weeks, Americans were reminded that there are still many ways that Republicans can continue to obstruct nominations.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on two nominations this morning. No one actually expected the vote to be held, because Republicans now routinely gum up the works by needlessly demanding at least one week's delay when a nominee is first up for a committee vote. The routine use of this privilege – for all but five of President Obama's judicial nominees – is unprecedented but now typical. So this morning, the committee was going to meet primarily to formally hold the vote up by a week.
However, as Chairman Pat Leahy announced on the Senate floor this afternoon, Republicans boycotted the meeting. Without a quorum, the committee could not act. So even the decision to needlessly delay the committee vote has itself been delayed.
Leahy also revealed further sabotage. He referred to the "blue slip" system, whereby the committee will not even process a nomination unless the nominee's home state senators consent via a blue slip of paper.
And there are seven nominations on which the Senate Judiciary Committee cannot proceed because Republican senators haven't returned blue slips indicating their support. We had somebody else who was about to have a hearing: Two Republican senators had returned blue slips, they withdrew them, and we had to take that name off.
So even nominees approved by their Republican home state senators are at risk.
The GOP has two ways to avoid being exposed – again – as irresponsibly keeping our courtrooms empty. One is to allow timely votes on all nominees as they are approved by the Judiciary Committee. Another is to sabotage the committee so it can no longer do its job, preventing nominations from even reaching the floor to be needlessly blocked.
Are Republicans choosing the second course?